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Full text of "The Copperhead"

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HE COPPERHEAD 



I 














THE UNIVERSITY OF 






NORTH CAROLINA 






LIBRARY 






# 






THE WILMER COLLECTION 






OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 






PRESENTED BY 






RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 











Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/copperheadOOfred 



THE COPPERHEAD 



BY HAROLD FREDERIC. 

IN THE VALLEY. 

Illustrated by Howard Pyle . $1.50 

THE LAWTON GIRL. 

l2mo, paper, 50 cents; cloth $1.25 

SETH'S BROTHER'S WIFE. 

l2mo $1.25 

THE COPPERHEAD. 

l2mo $1.00 



THE COPPERHEAD 



BY 



HAROLD FREDERIC 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

i893 



COPYRIGHT, 1893, BY 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. Abner Beech 1 

II. Jeff's Mutiny 17 

HI. Absalom 35 

IV. Antietam 47 

V. "Jee's" Tidings 63 

VI. Ni's Talk with Abner 76 

VII. The Election 90 

VIII. The Election Bonfire 106 

IX. Esther's Visit 115 

X. The Fire 133 

XI. The Conquest of Abner 146 

XII. The Unwelcome Guest 158 

XIII. The Breakfast 172 

XIV. Finis 182 



602913 



THE COPPERHEAD 

CHAPTER I 

ABNER BEECH 

It was on the night of my thirteenth 
birthday, I know, that the old farm-house 
was burned over our heads. By that reckon- 
ing I must have been six or seven when I 
went to live with Farmer Beech, because at 
the time he testified I had been with him 
half my life. 

Abner Beech had often been supervisor 
for his town, and could have gone to the 
Assembly, it was said, had he chosen. He 
was a stalwart, thick-shouldered, big man, 
with shaggy dark eyebrows shading stern 
hazel eyes, and with a long, straight nose, 
and a broad, firmly shut mouth. His expan- 
sive upper lip was blue from many years of 
shaving; all the rest was bushing beard, 
mounting high upon the cheeks and rolling 
l 



2 THE COPPERHEAD 

downward in iron-gray billows over his 
breast. That shaven upper lip, which still 
may be found among the farmers of the old 
blood in our district was, I dare say, a 
survival from the time of the Puritan protest 
against the mustaches of the Cavaliers. If 
Abner Beech, in the latter days, had been 
told that this shaving on Wednesday and 
Saturday nights was a New England rite, I 
feel sure he would never have touched razor 
again. 

He was a well-to-do man in the earlier 
time — a tremendous worker, a " good pro- 
vider," a citizen of weight and substance in 
the community. In all large matters the 
neighborhood looked to him to take the lead. 
He was the first farmer roundabout to set a 
mowing-machine to work in his meadows, 
and to put up lightning-rods on his buildings. 
At one period he was, too, the chief pillar in 
the church, but that was before the episode 
of the lightning-rods. Our little Union 
meeting-house was supplied in those days by 
an irregular procession of itinerant preachers, 
who came when the spirit moved and spoke 
with that entire frankness which is induced 
by knowledge that the night is to be spent 



ABNEB BEECH 3 

somewhere else. One of these strolling 
ministers regarded all attempts to protect 
property from lightning as an insolent defi- 
ance of the Divine Will, and said so very 
pointedly in the pulpit, and the congregation 
sat still and listened and grinned. Farmer 
Beech never forgave them. 

There came in good time other causes for 
ill-feeling. It is beyond the power of my 
memory to pick out and arrange in proper 
sequence the events which, in the final result, 
separated Abner Beech from his fellows. 
My own recollections go with distinctness 
back to the reception of the news that 
Virginia had hanged John Brown ; in a 
vaguer way they cover the two or three 
preceding years. Very likely Farmer Beech 
had begun to fall out of touch with his 
neighbors even before that. 

The circumstances of my adoption into his 
household — an orphan without relations or 
other friends — were not of the sort to serve 
this narrative. I was taken in to be raised as 
a farm-hand, and was no more expected to be 
grateful than as if I had been a young steer 
purchased to toil in the yoke. No suggestion 
was ever made that I had incurred any debt 



4 THE COPPERHEAD 

of obligation to the Beeches. In a little com- 
munity where everyone worked as a matter 
of course till there was no more work to do, 
and all shared alike the simple food, the tired, 
heavy sleep, and the infrequent spells of rec- 
reation, no one talked or thought of benefits 
conferred or received. My rights in the 
house and about the place were neither less 
nor more than those of Jeff Beech, the farm- 
er's only son. 

In the course of time I came, indeed, to be 
a more sympathetic unit in the household, so 
to speak, than poor Jeff himself. But that 
was only because he had been drawn off after 
strange gods. 

At all times — even when nothing else good 
was said of him — Abner Beech was spoken 
of by the people of the district as a " great 
hand for reading." His pre-eminence in this 
matter remained unquestioned to the end. No 
other farmer for miles owned half the number 
of books which he had on the shelves above 
his writing-desk. Still less was there anyone 
roundabout who could for a moment stand up 
with him in a discussion involving book- 
learning in general. This at first secured for 
him the respect of the whole country-side, and 



ABNER BEECH 5 

men were proud to be agreed with by such a 
scholar. But when affairs changed, this, 
oddly enough, became a formidable popular 
grievance against Abner Beech. They said 
then that his opinions were worthless because 
he got them from printed books, instead of 
from his heart. 

What these opinions were may in some 
measure be guessed from the titles of the 
farmer's books. Perhaps there were some 
thirty of them behind the glass doors of the 
old mahogany bookcase. With one or two 
agricultural or veterinary exceptions, they re- 
lated exclusively to American history and 
politics. There were, I recall, the first two 
volumes of Bancroft, and Lossing's " Lives 
of the Signers," and " Field-Books " of the 
two wars with England ; Thomas H. Benton's 
" Thirty Years' View ; " the four green-black 
volumes of Hammond's " Political History of 
the State of New York ; " campaign lives of 
Lewis Cass and Franklin Pierce, and larger 
biographies of Jefferson and Jackson, and, 
most imposing of all, a whole long row of 
big calf-bound volumes of the Congressional 
Globe, which carried the rninutise of politics 
at Washington back into the forties. 



6 THE COPPERHEAD 

These books constituted the entire literary 
side of my boyish education. I have only 
the faintest and haziest recollections of what 
happened when I went during the winter 
months to the school-house at the Four Cor- 
ners. But I can recall the very form of the 
type in the farmer's books. Everyone of 
those quaint, austere, and beardless faces, 
framed in high collars and stocks and waving 
hair — the Marcys, Calhouns, De Witt Clin- 
tons, and Silas Wrights of the daguerreotype 
and Sartain's primitive graver — gives back 
to me now the lineaments of an old-time 
friend. 

Whenever I could with decency escape 
from playing checkers with Jeff, and had no 
harness to grease or other indoor jobs, I spent 
the winter evenings in poring over some of 
these books — generally with Abner Beech 
at the opposite side of the table immersed in 
another. On some rare occasion one of the 
hired men would take down a volume and 
look through it — the farmer watching him 
covertly the while to see that he did not wet 
his big thumbs to turn over the leaves — but 
for the most part we two had the books to 
ourselves. The others would sit about till 



ABNER BEECH 1 

bedtime, amusing themselves as best they 
could, the women-folk knitting or mending, 
the men cracking butternuts, or dallying with 
cider and apples and fried-cakes, as they 
talked over the work and gossip of the dis- 
trict and tempted the scorching impulses of 
the stovehearth with their stockinged feet. 

This tacit separation of the farmer and 
myself from the rest of the household in the 
course of time begat confidences between us. 
He grew, from brief and casual beginnings, 
into a habit of speaking to me about the 
things we read. As it became apparent, year 
by year, that young Jeff was never going to 
read anything at all, Abner Beech more and 
more distinguished me with conversational 
favor. It cannot be said that the favoritism 
showed itself in other directions. I had to 
work as hard as ever, and got no more play- 
time than before. The master's eye was 
everywhere as keen, alert, and unsparing as 
if I had not known even m'y alphabet. But 
when there were breathing spells, we talked 
together — or rather he talked and I listened 
— as if we were folk quite apart from the 
rest. 

Two fixed ideas thus arose in my boyish 



8 THE COPPERHEAD 

mind, and dominated all my little notions of 
the world. One was that Alexander Hamil- 
ton and John Marshall were among the most 
infamous characters in history. The other 
was that every true American ought to hold 
himself in daily readiness to fight with Eng- 
land. I gave a great deal of thought to both 
these matters. I had early convictions, too, 
I remember, with regard to Daniel Webster, 
who had been very bad, and then all at once 
became a very good man. For some obscure 
reason I always connected him in my imag- 
ination with Zaccheus up a tree, and clung to 
the queer association of images long after I 
learned that the Marshfield statesman had 
been physically a large man. 

Gradually the old blood-feud with the Brit- 
isher became obscured by fresher antagonisms, 
and there sprouted up a crop of new sons of 
Belial who deserved to be hated more even 
than had Hamilton and Marshall. With me 
the two stages of indignation glided into 
one another so impreceptibly that I can now 
hardly distinguish between them. What I do 
recall is that the farmer came in time to neg- 
lect the hereditary enemy, England, and to 
seem to have quite forgotten our own historic 



ABNER BEECH 9 

foes to liberty, so enraged was lie over the 
modern Abolitionists. He told me about them 
as we paced up the seed rows together in the 
spring, as we drove homeward on the hay-load 
in the cool of the summer evening, as we 
shovelled out a path for the women to the 
pumps in the farm-yard through December 
snows. It took me a long time to even ap- 
proximately grasp the wickedness of these 
new men, who desired to establish negro 
sovereignty in the Republic, and to compel 
each white girl to marry a black man. 

The fact that I had never seen any negro 
" close to," and had indeed only caught pass- 
ing glimpses of one or more of the colored 
race on the streets of our nearest big town, 
added, no doubt, to the mystified alarm with 
which I contemplated these monstrous pro- 
posals. When finally an old darky on his 
travels did stroll our way, and I beheld him, 
incredibly ragged, dirty, and light-hearted, 
shuffling through " Jump Jim Crow " down 
at the Four Corners, for the ribald delectation 
of the village loafers, the revelation fairly 
made me shudder. I marvelled that the 
others could laugh, with this unspeakable 
fate hanging over their silly heads. 



10 THE COPPERHEAD 

At first the Abolitionists were to me a re- 
mote and intangible class, who lived and 
wrought their evil deeds in distant places — 
chiefly New England way. I rarely heard 
mention of any names of persons among them. 
They seemed to be an impersonal mass, like 
a herd of buffaloes or a swarm of hornets. 
The first individuality in their ranks which 
attracted my attention, I remember, was that 
of Theodore Parker. The farmer one day 
brought home with him from town a pam- 
phlet composed of anti-slavery sermons or 
addresses by this person. In the evening he 
read it, or as far into it as his temper would 
permit, beating the table with his huge fist 
from time to time, and snorting with wrath- 
ful amazement. At last he sprang to his feet, 
marched over to the wood-stove, kicked the 
door open with his boot, and thrust the offend- 
ing print into the blaze. It is vivid in my 
memory still — the way the red flame-light 
flared over his big burly front, and sparkled 
on his beard, and made his face to shine like 
that of Moses. 

But soon I learned that there were Aboli- 
tionists everywhere — Abolitionists right here 
in our own little farmland township of north- 



ABNER BEECH 11 

ern New York ! The impression which this 
discovery made upon me was not unlike that 
produced on Robinson Crusoe by the immor- 
tal footprint. I could think of nothing else. 
Great events, which really covered a space 
of years, came and went as in a bunch to- 
gether, while I was still pondering upon this. 
John Brown was hanged, Lincoln was elected, 
Sumter was fired on, the first regiment was 
raised and despatched from our rustic end 
of Dearborn County — and all the time it 
seems now as if my mind was concentrated 
upon the amazing fact that some of our 
neighbors were Abolitionists. 

There was a certain dreamlike tricksiness 
of transformation in it all. At first there was 
only one Abolitionist, old "Jee" Hagadorn. 
Then, somehow, there came to be a num- 
ber of them — and then, all at once, lo ! 
everybody was an Abolitionist — that is to 
say, everybody but Abner Beech. The more 
general and enthusiastic the conversion of 
the others became, the more resolutely and 
doggedly he dug his heels into the ground, 
and braced his broad shoulders, and pulled in 
the opposite direction. The skies darkened, 
the wind rose, the storm of angry popular 



12 THE COPPERHEAD 

feeling burst swooping over the country-side, 
but Beech only stiffened his back and never 
budged an inch. 

At some early stage of this great change, 
we ceased going to church at all. The pulpit 
of our rustic meeting-house had become a 
platform from which the farmer found himself 
denounced with hopeless regularity on every 
recurring Sabbath, and that, too, without any 
chance whatever of talking back. This in it- 
self was hardly to be borne. But when others, 
mere laymen of the church, took up the theme, 
and began in class-meetings and the Sunday- 
school to talk about Antichrist and the Beast ' 
with Ten Horns and Seven Heads, in obvious 
connection with Southern sympathizers, it 
became frankly insufferable. The farmer 
did not give in without a fierce resistance. 
He collected all the texts he could find in 
the Bible, such as " Servants obey your mas- 
ters," " Cursed be Canaan," and the like, and 
hurled them vehemently, with strong, deep 
voice, and sternly glowing eyes, full at their 
heads. But the others had many more texts 
— we learned afterwards that old " Jee " 
Hagadorn enjoyed the unfair advantage of 
a Cruden's Concordance — and their tongues 



ABNER BEECH 13 

were as forty to one, so we left off going to 
church altogether. 

Not long after this, I should think, came 
the miserable affair of the cheese-factory. 

The idea of doing all the dairy work of a 
neighborhood under a common roof, which 
originated not many miles from us, was now 
nearly ten years old. In those days it was 
regarded as having in it possibilities of vastly 
greater things than mere cheese-making. Its 
success among us had stirred up in men's 
minds big sanguine notions of co-operation 
as the answer to all American farm problems 
— as the gateway through which we were 
to march into the rural millennium. These 
high hopes one recalls now with a smile and 
a sigh. Farmers' wives continued to break 
down and die under the strain, or to be 
drafted off to the lunatic asylums ; the farm- 
ers kept on hanging themselves in their 
barns, or flying westward before the locust- 
like cloud of mortgages ; the boys and girls 
turned their steps townward in an ever-in- 
creasing host. The millennium never came 
at all. 

But at that time — in the late fifties and 
early sixties — the cheese-factory was the 



14 THE COPPERHEAD 

centre of an impressive constellation of 
dreams and roseate promises. Its managers 
were the very elect of the district; their 
disfavor was more to be dreaded than 
any condemnation of a town-meeting; their 
chief officers were even more important per- 
sonages than the supervisor and assessor. 

Abner Beech had literally been the founder 
of our cheese-factory. I fancy he gave the 
very land on which it was built, and where 
you will see it still, under the willows by the 
upper-creek bridge. He sent to it in those 
days the milk of the biggest herd owned by 
any farmer for miles around, reaching at 
seasons nearly one hundred cows. His voice, 
too, outweighed all others in its co-operative 
councils. 

But when our church-going community 
had reached the conclusion that a man 
couldn't be a Christian and hold such views 
on the slave question as Beech held, it was 
only a very short step to the conviction that 
such a man would water his milk. In some 
parts of the world the theft of a horse is the 
most heinous of conceivable crimes ; other 
sections exalt to this pinnacle of sacredness 
in property a sheep or a pheasant or a woman. 



ABNER BEECH 15 

Among our dairymen the thing of special 
sanctity was milk. A man in our neighbor- 
hood might almost better be accused of for- 
gery or bigamy outright, than to fall under 
the dreadful suspicion of putting water into 
his cans. 

Whether it was mere stupid prejudice or 
malignant invention I know not — who 
started the story was never to be learned — 
but of a sudden everybody seemed to have 
heard that Abner Beech's milk had been re- 
fused at the cheese-factory. This was not 
true, any more than it was true that there 
could possibly have been warrant for such a 
proceeding. But what did happen was that 
the cheese-maker took elaborate pains each 
morning to test our cans with such primitive 
appliances as preceded the lactometer, and 
sniffed suspiciously as he entered our figures 
in a separate book, and behaved generally so 
that our hired man knocked him head over 
heels into one of his whey vats. Then the 
managers complained to the farmer. He 
went down to meet them, boiling over with 
rage. There was an evil spirit in the air, 
and bitter words were exchanged. The out- 
come was that Abner Beech renounced the 



16 THE COPPERHEAD 

co-operative curds of his earlier manhood, so 
to speak, sold part of his cattle at a heavy 
loss, and began making butter at home with 
the milk of the remainder. 

Then we became pariahs in good earnest. 



CHAPTER II 

jeff's mutiny 

The farmer came in from the fields some- 
what earlier than usual on this August after- 
noon. He walked, I remember, with a heavy 
step and bowed head, and, when he had come 
into the shade on the porch and taken off his 
hat, looked about him with a wearied air. 
The great heat, with its motionless atmos- 
phere and sultry closeness, had well-nigh 
wilted everybody. But one could see that 
Abner was suffering more than the rest, and 
from something beyond the enervation of 
dog-days. 

He sank weightily into the arm-chair by 
the desk, and stretched out his legs with a 
querulous note in his accustomed grunt of 
relief. On the moment Mrs. Beech came in 
from the kitchen, with the big china wash- 
bowl filled with cold water, and the towel 
and clean socks over her arm, and knelt be- 
fore her husband. She proceeded to pull off 
his big, dust-baked boots and the woollen foot- 
17 



18 THE COPPERHEAD 

gear, put his feet into the bowl, bathe and 
dry them, and draw on the fresh covering, all 
without a word. 

The ceremony was one I had watched 
many hundreds of times. Mrs. Beech was 
a tall, dark, silent woman, whom I could 
well believe to have been handsome in her 
youth. She belonged to one of the old Mo- 
hawk-Dutch families, and when some of her 
sisters came to visit at the farm I noted that 
they too were all dusky as squaws, with jet- 
black shiny curls and eyes like the midnight 
hawk. I used always to be afraid of them 
on this account, but I dare say they were in 
reality most kindly women. Mrs. Beech her- 
self represented to my boyish eyes the ideal 
of a saturnine and masterful queen. She per- 
formed great quantities of work with no ap- 
parent effort — as if she had merely willed it 
to be done. Her household was governed with 
a cold impassive exactitude ; there were never 
any hitches, or even high words. The hired- 
girls, of course, called her "M'rye," as the 
rest of us mostly did, but they rarely carried 
familiarity further, and as a rule respected 
her dislike for much talk. During all the 
years I spent under her roof I was never 



JEFF'S MUTINY 19 

clear in my mind as to whether she liked 
me or not. Her own son, even, passed 
his boyhood in much the same state of 
dubiety. 

But to her husband, Abner Beech, she was 
always most affectionately docile and humble. 
Her snapping black eyes followed him about 
and rested on him with an almost canine fidel- 
ity of liking. She spoke to him habitually 
in a voice quite different from that which 
others heard addressed to them. This, in- 
deed, was measurably true of us all. By in- 
stinct the whole household deferred in tone 
and manner to our big, bearded chief, as if 
he were an Arab sheik ruling over us in a 
tent on the desert. The word " patriarch " 
still seems best to describe him, and his atti- 
tude toward us and the world in general, as I 
recall him sitting there in the half-darkened 
living-room, with his wife bending over his 
feet in true Oriental submission. 

" Do you know where Jeff is ? " the farmer 
suddenly asked, without turning his head to 
where I sat braiding a whiplash, but indicat- 
ing by the volume of voice that his query was 
put to me. 

" He went off about two o'clock," I replied, 



20 THE COPPERHEAD 

" with his fish-pole. They say they are bit- 
ing like everything down in the creek." 

"Well, you keep to work and they won't 
bite you," said Abner Beech. This was a 
very old joke with him, and usually the op- 
portunity of using it once more tended to 
lighten his mood. Now, though mere force 
of habit led him to repeat the pleasantry, he 
had no pleasure in it. He sat with his head 
bent, and his huge hairy hands spread list- 
lessly on the chair-arms. 

Mrs. Beech finished her task, and rose, 
lifting the bowl from the floor. She paused, 
and looked wistfully into her husband's face. 

" You ain't a bit well, Abner ! " she said. 

" Well as I'm likely ever to be again," he 
made answer, gloomily. 

" Has any more of 'em been sayin' or doin' 
anything?" the wife asked, with diffident 
hesitation. 

The farmer spoke with more animation. 
" D'ye suppose I care a picayune what they 
say or do ? " he demanded. " Not I ! But 
when a man's own kith and kin turn agin 
him, into the bargain — " he left the sentence 
unfinished, and shook his head to indicate the 
impossibility of such a situation. 



JEFF'S MUTINY 21 

" Has Jeff —then — " Mrs. Beech began to 
ask. 

" Yes — Jeff! " thundered the farmer, strik- 
ing his fist on the arm of the chair. " Yes — 
by the Eternal ! — Jeff! " 

When Abner Beech swore by the Eternal 
we knew that things were pretty bad. His 
wife put the bowl down on a chair, and seated 
herself in another. " What's Jeff been doin' ? " 
she asked. 

" Why, where d'ye suppose he was last 
night, 'n' the night before that ? Where d'ye 
suppose he is this minute ? They ain't no 
mistake about it, Lee Watkins saw 'em with 
his own eyes, and ta'nted me with it. He's 
down by the red bridge — that's where he is 
— hangin' round that Hagadorn gal ! " 

Mrs. Beech looked properly aghast at the 
intelligence. Even to me it was apparent 
that the unhappy Jeff might better have been 
employed in committing any other crime 
under the sun. It was only to be expected 
that his mother would be horrified. 

" I never could abide that Lee Watkins," 
was what she said. 

The farmer did not comment on the rele- 
vancy of this. " Yes," he went on, " the 



22 THE COPPERHEAD 

daughter of mine enemy, the child of that 
whining, backbiting old scoundrel who's been 
eating his way into me like a deer-tick for 
years — the whelp that I owe every mean and 
miserable thing that's ever happened to me 
— yes, of all living human creatures, by the 
Eternal ! it's his daughter that that blamed 
fool of a Jeff must take a shine to, and hang 
around after ! " 

" He'll come of age the fourteenth of next 
month," remarked the mother, tentatively. 

" Yes — and march up and vote the Woolly- 
head ticket. I suppose that's what'll come 
next ! " said the farmer, bitterly. " It only 
needed that ! " 

" And it was you who got her the job 
of teachin' the school, too, " put in Mrs. 
Beech. 

"That's nothing to do with it," Abner 
continued. " I ain't blamin' her — that is, on 
her own account. She's a good enough gal 
so far's I know. But everything and every- 
body under that tumble-down Hagadorn roof 
ought to be pizen to any son of mine ! That's 
what I say ! And I tell you this, mother" — 
the farmer rose, and spread his broad chest, 
towering over the seated woman as he spoke 



JEFF'S MUTINY 23 

— "I tell you this ; if he ain't got pride 
enough to keep him away from that house — 
away from that gal — then he can keep away 
from this house — away from me ! " 

The wife looked up at him mutely, then 
bowed her head in tacit consent. 

" He brings it on himself ! " Abner cried, 
with clenched fists, beginning to pace up and 
down the room. " Who's the one man I've 
reason to curse with my dying breath ? Who 
began the infernal Abolition cackle here ? 
Who drove me out of the church? Who 
started that outrageous lie about the milk at 
the factory, and chased me out of that, too ? 
Who's been a lay in' for years behind every 
stump and every bush, waitin' for the chance 
to stab me in the back, an' ruin my business, 
an' set my neighbors agin me, an' land me an' 
mine in the poorhouse or the lockup? You 
know as well as I do — ' Jee ' Hagadorn ! 
If I'd wrung his scrawny little neck for him 
the first time I ever laid eyes on him, it 
'd 'a' been money in my pocket and years 
added onto my life. And then my son — my 
son ! must go taggin' around — oh-h ! " 

He ended with an inarticulate growl of 
impatience and wrath. 



24 THE COPPERHEAD 

" Mebbe, if you spoke to the boy — " Mrs. 
Beech began. 

" Yes, I'll speak to him! " the farmer burst 
forth, with grim emphasis. " I'll speak to him 
so't he'll hear ! " He turned abruptly to me. 
" Here, boy," he said, " you go down the 
creek-road an' look for Jeff. If he ain't 
loafin' round the school-house he'll be in the 
neighborhood of Hagadorn's. You tell him 
I say for him to get back here as quick as he 
can. You needn't tell him what it's about. 
Pick up your feet, now ! " 

As luck would have it, I had scarcely got 
out to the road before I heard the loose-spoked 
wheels of the local butcher's wagon rattling 
behind me down the hill. Looking round, I 
saw through the accompanying puffs of dust 
that young " Ni " Hagadorn was driving, and 
that he was alone. I stopped and waited 
for him to come up, questioning my mind 
whether it would be fair to beg a lift from 
him, when the purpose of my journey was so 
hostile to his family. Even after he had 
halted, and I had climbed up to the seat 
beside him, this consciousness of treachery 
disturbed me. 

But no one thought long of being serious 



JEFF'S MUTINY 25 

with " Ni." He was along in the teens some- 
where, not large for his years but extremely 
wiry and muscular, and the funniest boy 
any of us ever knew of. How the son of 
such a sad-faced, gloomy, old licensed ex- 
horter as " Jee " Hagadorn could be such a 
running spring of jokes and odd sayings and 
general deviltry as " Ni," passed all our 
understandings. His very face made you 
laugh, with its wilderness of freckles, its 
snub nose, and the comical curl to its mouth. 
He must have been a profitable investment to 
the butcher who hired him to drive about the 
country. The farmers' wives all came out 
to laugh and chat with him, and under the 
influence of his good spirits they went on 
buying the toughest steaks and bull-beef 
flanks, at more than city prices, year after 
year. But anybody who thought " Ni " was 
soft because he was full of fun made a great 
mistake. 

"I see you ain't doin' much ditchin' this 
year," " Ni " remarked, glancing over our fields 
as he started up the horse. "I should think 
you'd be tickled to death." 

Well, in one sense I was glad. There used 
to be no other such back-aching work in all 



26 THE COPPERHEAD 

the year as that picking up of stones to fill 
into the trenches which the hired men began 
digging as soon as the hay and grain were 
in. But on the other hand, I knew that the 
present idleness meant — as everything else 
now seemed to mean — that the Beech farm 
was going to the dogs. 

" No," I made rueful answer. " Our land 
don't need draiijin' any more. It's dry as 
a powder-horn now." 

" Ni " clucked knowingly at the old horse. 
" Guess it's Abner that can't stand much more 
drainin'," he said. " They say he's looking 
all round for a mortgage, and can't raise 
one." 

" No such thing ! " I replied. " His health's 
poorly this summer, that's all. And Jeff — 
he dont seem to take hold, somehow, like he 
used to." 

My companion laughed outright. " Mustn't 
call him Jeff any more," he remarked with a 
grin. " He was telling us down at the house 
that he was going to have people call him 
Tom after this. He can't stand answerin' 
to the same name as Jeff Davis," he says. 

" I suppose you folks put him up to that," 
I made bold to comment, indignantly. 



JEFF'S MUTINY 27 

The suggestion did not annoy " Ni." 
" Mebbe so," he said. " You know Dad lots 
a good deal on names. He's down-right 
mortified that I don't get up and kill people 
because my name's Benaiah. ' Why,' he 
keeps on saying to me, ' Here you are, Bena- 
iah, the son of Jehoiada, as it was in Holy 
Writ, and instid of preparin' to make ready 
to go out and fall on the enemies of right- 
eousness, like your namesake did, all you do 
is read dime novels and cut up monkey-shines 
generally, for all the world as if you'd been 
named Pete or Steve or William Henry.' 
That's what he gives me pretty nearly every 
day." 

I was familiar enough with the quaint 
mysticism which the old Abolitionist cooper 
wove around the Scriptural names of himself 
and his son. We understood that these two 
appellations had alternated among his ances- 
tors as well, and I had often heard him read 
from Samuel and Kings and Chronicles about 
them, his stiff red hair standing upright, and 
the blue veins swelling on his narrow tem- 
ples with proud excitement. But that, of 
course, was in the old days, before the 
trouble came, and when I still went to 



28 THE COPPERHEAD 

church. To hear it all now again seemed to 
give me a novel impression of wild fanati- 
cism in " Jee " Hagadorn. 

His son was chuckling on his seat over 
something he had just remembered. " Last 
time," he began, gurgling with laughter — 
"last time he went for me because I wasn't 
measurin' up to his idee of what a Benaiah 
ought to be like, I up an' said to him, ' Look 
a-here now, people who live in glass houses 
mustn't heave rocks. If I'm Benaiah, you're 
Jehoiada. Well, it says in the Bible that 
Jehoiada made a covenant. Do you make 
cove-nants ? Not a bit of it ! all you make 
is butter firkins, with now an' then an odd 
pork barrel.' " 

"What did he say to that?" I asked, as 
my companion's merriment abated. 

" Well, I come away just then ; I seemed 
to have business outside," replied " Ni," still 
grinning. 

We had reached the Corners now, and my 
companion obligingly drew up to let me get 
down. He called out some merry quip or 
other as he drove off, framed in a haze of 
golden dust against the sinking sun, and I 
stood looking after him with the pleasantest 



JEFF'S MUTINY 29 

thoughts my mind had known for days. It 
was almost a shock to remember that he was 
one of the abhorrent and hated Hagadorns. 

And his sister, too. It was not at all easy 
to keep one's loathing up to the proper pitch 
where so nice a girl as Esther Hagadorn was 
its object. She was years and years my 
senior — she was even older than " Ni " — 
and had been my teacher for the past two 
winters. She had never spoken to me save 
across that yawning gulf which separates 
little barefooted urchins from tall young 
women, with long dresses and their hair done 
up in a net, and I could hardly be said 
to know her at all. Yet now, perversely 
enough, I could think of nothing but her 
manifest superiority to all the farm girls 
round about. She had been to a school in 
some remote city, where she had relations. 
Her hands were fabulously white, and even 
on the hottest of days her dresses rustled 
pleasantly with starched primness. People 
talked about her singing at church as some- 
thing remarkable ; to my mind, the real 
music was when she just spoke to you, even 
if it was no more than " Good-morning, 
Jimmy ! " 



30 THE COPPERHEAD 

I clambered up on the window-sill of the 
school-house, to make sure there was no one 
inside, and then set off down the creek-road 
toward the red or lower bridge. Milking- 
time was about over, and one or two teams 
passed me on the way to the cheese-factory, 
the handles of the cans rattling as they went, 
and the low sun throwing huge shadows of 
drivers and horses sprawling eastward over 
the stubble-field. I cut across lots to avoid 
the cheese-factory itself, with some vague 
feeling that it was not a fitting spectacle for 
anyone who lived on the Beech farm. 

A few moments brought me to the bank of 
the wandering stream below the factory, but 
so near that I could hear the creaking of the 
chain drawing up the cans over the tackle, 
or as we called it, the " teekle." The 
willows under which I walked stretched 
without a break from the clump by the 
factory bridge. And now, low and behold ! 
beneath still other of these willows, farther 
down the stream, whom should I see stroll- 
ing together but my school-teacher and the 
delinquent Jeff ! 

Young Beech bore still the fish-pole I had 
seen him take from our shed some hours 



JEFF'S MUTINY 31 

earlier, but the line twisted round it was 
very white and dry. He was extremely close 
to the girl, and kept his head bent down over 
her as they sauntered along the meadow-path. 
They seemed not to be talking, but just idly 
drifting forward like the deep slow water 
beside them. I had never realized before 
how tall Jeff was. Though the school-ma'am 
always seemed to me of an exceeding stature, 
here was Jeff rounding his shoulders and 
inclining his neck in order to look under her 
broad-brimmed Leghorn hat. 

There could be no imaginable excuse for 
my not overtaking them. Instinct prompted 
me to start up a whistling tune as I advanced 

— a casual and indolently unobtrusive tune 

— at sound of which Jeff straightened him- 
self, and gave his companion a little more 
room on the path. In a moment or two he 
stopped, and looked intently over the bank 
into the water, as if he hoped it might turn 
out to be a likely place for fish. And the 
school-ma'am, too, after a few aimless steps, 
halted to help him look. 

" Abner wants you to come right straight 
home ! " was the form in which my message 
delivered itself when I had come close up to 
them. 



32 THE COPPERHEAD 

They both shifted their gaze from the 
sluggish stream below to me upon the in- 
stant. Then Esther Hagadorn looked away, 
but Jeff — good, big, honest Jeff, who had 
been like a fond elder brother to me since I 
could remember — knitted his brows and re- 
garded me with something like a scowl. 

"Did pa send you to say that?" he de- 
manded, holding my eye with a glance of 
such stern inquiry that I could only nod my 
head in confusion. 

" An' he knew that you'd find me here, did 
he?" 

" He said either at the school-house or 
around here somewhere," I admitted, weakly. 

"An' there ain't nothin' the matter at the 
farm ? He don't want me for nothin' 
special?" pursued Jeff, still looking me 
through and through. 

" He didn't say," I made hesitating answer, 
but for the life of me, I could not keep 
from throwing a tell-tale look in the direc- 
tion of his companion in the blue gingham 
dress. 

A wink could not have told Jeff more. 
He gave a little bitter laugh, and stared 
above my head at the willow-plumes for a 



JEFF'S MUTINY 33 

minute's meditation. Then be tossed his 
fish-pole over to me and laughed again. 

" Keep that for yourself, if you want it," 
he said, in a voice not quite his own, but 
robustly enough. " I sha'n't need it any 
more. Tell pa I ain't a-comin' ! " 

" Oh, Tom ! " Esther broke in, anxiously, 
"would you do that?" 

He held up his hand with a quiet, master- 
ful gesture, as if she were the pupil and he 
the teacher, " Tell him," he went on, the tone 
falling now strong and true, " tell him and 
ma that I'm goin' to Tecumseh to-night to 
enlist. If they're willin' to say good-by, they 
can let me know there, and I'll manage to 
slip back for the day. If they ain't willin' — 
why, they — they needn't send word ; that's 
all." 

Esther had come up to him, and held his 
arm now in hers. 

" You're wrong to leave them like that ! " 
she pleaded, earnestly, but Jeff shook his 
head. 

" You don't know him ! " was all he said. 

In another minute I had shaken hands with 
Jeff, and had started on my homeward way, 
with his parting " Good-by, youngster ! " be- 



34 THE COPPERHEAD 

numbing my ears. When, after a while, I 
turned to look back, they were still standing 
where I had left them, gazing over the bank 
into the water. 

Then, as I trudged onward once more, I 
began to quake at the thought of how 
Farmer Beech would take the news. 



CHAPTER III 

ABSALOM 

Once, in the duck-season, as I lay hidden 
among the marsh-reeds with an older boy, a 
crow passed over us, flying low. Looking up 
at him, I realized for the first time how beau- 
tiful a creature was this common black thief 
of ours — how splendid his strength and the 
sheen of his coat, how proudly graceful the 
sweep and curves of his great slow wings. 
The boy beside me fired, and in a flash what 
I had been admiring changed — even as it 
stopped headlong in mid-air — into a hideous 
thing, an evil confusion of jumbled feathers. 
The awful swiftness of that transition from 
beauty and power to hateful carrion haunted 
me for a long time. 

I half expected that Abner Beech would 
crumple up in some such distressing way, all 
of a sudden, when I told him that his son Jeff 
wag in open rebellion, and intended to go off 
and enlist. It was incredible to the senses 
that any member t)f the household should set 
35 



36 THE COPPERHEAD 

at defiance the patriarchal will of its head. 
But that the offence should come from placid, 
slow-witted, good-natured Jeff, and that it 
should involve the appearance of a Beech in 
a blue uniform — these things staggered the 
imagination. It was clear that something 
prodigious must happen. 

As it turned out, nothing happened at all. 
The farmer and his wife sat out on the ve- 
randa, as was their wont of a summer evening, 
rarely exchanging a word, but getting a rest- 
ful sort of satisfaction in together surveying 
their barns and haystacks and the yellow- 
brown stretch of fields beyond. 

" Jeff says he's goin' to-night to Tecumseh, 
an' he's goin' to enlist, an' if you want him to 
run over to say good-by you're to let him 
know there." 

I leant upon my newly-acquired fish-pole 
for support, as I unburdened myself of these 
sinister tidings. The old pair looked at me 
in calm-eyed silence, as if I had related the 
most trivial of village occurrences. Neither 
moved a muscle nor uttered a sound, but just 
gazed, till it felt as if their eyes were burn- 
ing holes into me. 

" That's what he said," I* repeated, after a 



ABSALOM 37 

pause, to mitigate the embarrassment of that 
dumb steadfast stare. 

The mother it was who spoke at last. 
"You'd better go round and get your sup- 
per," she said, quietly. 

The table was spread, as usual, in the big, 
low-ceilinged room which during the winter 
was used as a kitchen. What was unusual 
was to discover a strange man seated alone in 
his shirt-sleeves at this table, eating his sup- 
per. As I took my chair, however, I saw that 
he was not altogether a stranger. I recog- 
nized in him the little old Irishman who had 
farmed Ezra Tracy's beaver-meadow the pre- 
vious year on shares, and done badly, and had 
since been hiring out for odd jobs at hoeing 
and haying. He had lately lost his wife, I 
recalled now, and lived alone in a tumble- 
down old shanty beyond Parker's saw-mill. 
He had come to us in the spring, I remem- 
bered, when the brindled calf was born, to 
beg a pail of what he called " basteings," and 
I speculated in my mind whether it was this 
repellent mess that had killed his wife. 
Above all these thoughts rose the impression 
that Abner must have decided to do a heap 
of ditching and wall-building, to have hired a 



38 THE COPPERHEAD 

new hand in this otherwise slack season — and 
at this my back began to ache prophetically. 

" How are yeh ! " the new-comer remarked, 
affably, as I sat down and reached for the 
bread. " An' did yeh see the boys march 
away? An' had they a drum wid 'em? " 

" What boys ? " I asked, in blank ignorance 
as to what he was at. 

" I'm told there's a baker's dozen of 'em 
gone, more or less," he replied. " Well, glory 
be to the Lord, 'tis an ill wind blows nobody 
good. Here am I aitin' butter on my bread, 
an' cheese on top o' that." 

I should still have been in the dark, had 
not one of the hired girls, Janey Wilcox, 
come in from the butter-room, to ask me in 
turn much the same thing, and to add the 
explanation that a whole lot of the young 
men of the neighborhood had privately ar- 
ranged among themselves to enlist together 
as soon as the harvesting was over, and had 
this day gone off in a body. Among them, 
I learned now, were our two hired men, 
Warner Pitts and Ray Watkins. This, then, 
accounted for the presence of the Irishman. 

As a matter of fact, there had been no 
secrecy about the thing save with the con- 



ABSALOM 39 

tingent which our household furnished, and 
that was only because of the fear which 
Abner Beech inspired. His son and his ser- 
vants alike preferred to hook it, rather than 
explain their patriotic impulses to him. But 
naturally enough, our farm-girls took it for 
granted that all the others had gone in the 
same surreptitious fashion, and this threw an 
air of fascinating mystery about the whole 
occurrence. They were deeply surprised that 
I should have been down past the Corners, 
and even beyond the cheese-factory, and seen 
nothing of these extraordinary martial prep- 
arations ; and I myself was ashamed of it. 

Opinions differed, I remember, as to the 
behavior of our two hired men. " Till " 
Babcock and the Underwood girl defended 
them, but Janey took the other side, not 
without various unpleasant personal insinua- 
tions, and the Irishman and I were outspoken 
in their condemnation. But nobody said a 
word about Jeff, though it was plain enough 
that everyone knew. 

Dusk fell while we still talked of these 
astounding events — my thoughts meantime 
dividing themselves between efforts to realize 
these neighbors of ours as soldiers on the 



40 THE COPPERHEAD 

tented field, and uneasy speculation as to 
whether I should at last get a bed to myself 
or be expected to sleep with the Irishman. 

Janey Wilcox had taken the lamp into the 
living-room. She returned now, with an 
uplifted hand and a face covered over with 
lines of surprise. 

" You're to all of you come in," she whis- 
pered, impressively. " Abner's got the Bible 
down. We're goin' to have fam'ly prayers, 
or somethin'." 

With one accord we looked at the Irish- 
man. The question had never before arisen 
on our farm, but we all knew about other 
cases, in which Catholic hands held aloof 
from the household's devotions. There were 
even stories of their refusal to eat meat on 
some one day of the week, but this we hardly 
brought ourselves to credit. Our surprise at 
the fact that domestic religious observances 
were to be resumed under the Beech roof- 
tree — where they had completely lapsed 
ever since the trouble at the church — was 
as nothing compared with our curiosity to 
see what the new-comer would do. 

What he did was to get up and come 
along with the rest of us, quite as a matter 



ABSALOM 41 

of course. I felt sure that he could not have 
understood what was going on. 

We filed into the living-room. The 
Beeches had come in and shut the veranda 
door, and " M'rye " was seated in her rock- 
ing-chair, in the darkness beyond the book- 
case. Her husband had the big book open 
before him on the table ; the lamp-light threw 
the shadow of his long nose down into the 
gray of his beard with a strange effect of 
fierceness. His lips were tight-set and his 
shaggy brows drawn into a commanding 
frown, as he bent over the pages. 

Abner did not look up till we had taken 
our seats. Then he raised his eyes toward 
the Irishman. 

" I don't know, Hurley," he said, in a 
grave, deep-booming voice, " whether you 
feel it right for you to join us — we bein' 
Protestants — " 

" Ah, it's all right, sir," replied Hurley, 
reassuringly, "I'll take no harm by it." 

A minute's silence followed upon this mag- 
nanimous declaration. Then Abner, clearing 
his throat, began solemnly to read the story 
of Absalom's revolt. He had the knack, not 
uncommon in those primitive class-meeting 



42 THE COPPERHEAD 

days, of making his strong, low-pitched voice 
quaver and wail in the most tear-compelling 
fashion when he read from the Old Testa- 
ment. You could hardly listen to him go- 
ing through even the genealogical tables 
of Chronicles dry-eyed. His Jeremiah and 
Ezekiel were equal to the funeral of a well- 
beloved relation. 

This night he read as I had never heard 
him read before. The whole grim story of 
the son's treason and final misadventure, of 
the ferocious battle in the wood of Ephraim, 
of Joab's savagery, and of the rival runners, 
made the air vibrate about us, and took pos- 
session of our minds and kneaded them like 
dough, as we sat in the mute circle in the old 
living-room. From my chair I could see 
Hurley without turning my head, and the 
spectacle of excitement he presented — bend- 
ing forward with dropped jaw and wild, 
glistening gray eyes, a hand behind his ear 
to miss no syllable of this strange new tale 
— only added to the effect it produced on 
me. 

Then there came the terrible picture of 
the King's despair. I had trembled as we 
neared this part, foreseeing what heart-wring- 



ABSALOM 43 

ing anguish Abner, in his present mood, 
would give to that cry of the stricken father 
— " O my son Absalom, my son, my son 
Absalom ! Would God I had died for thee, 
O Absalom, my son, my son ! " To my great 
surprise, he made very little of it. The 
words came coldly, almost contemptuously, 
so that the listener could not but feel that 
David's lamentations were out of place, and 
might better have been left unuttered. 

But now the farmer, leaping over into the 
next chapter, brought swart, stalwart, blood- 
stained Joab on the scene before us, and in 
an instant we saw why the King's outburst 
of mourning had fallen so flat upon our ears. 
Abner Beech's voice rose and filled the room 
with its passionate fervor as he read out 
Joab's speech — wherein the King is roundly 
told that his son was a worthless fellow, and 
was killed not a bit too soon, and that for 
the father to thus publicly lament him is to 
put to shame all his household and his loyal 
friends and servants. 

While these sonorous words of protest 
against paternal weakness still rang in the 
air, Abner abruptly closed the book with a 
snap. We looked at him and at one another 



44 THE COPPERHEAD 

for a bewildered moment, and then " Till " 
Babcock stooped as if to kneel by her chair, 
but Janey nudged her, and we all rose and 
made our way silently out again into the 
kitchen. It had been apparent enough that 
no spirit of prayer abode in the farmer's 
breast. 

" 'Twas a fine bold sinsible man, that 
Job ! " remarked Hurley to me, when the 
door was closed behind us, and the women 
had gone off to talk the scene over among 
themselves in the butter-room. " Would it 
be him that had thim lean turkeys ? " 

With some difficulty I made out his mean- 
ing. " Oh, no ! " I exclaimed, " the man 
Abner read about was Jo-ab, not Job. They 
were quite different people." 

"I thought as much," replied the Irishman. 
" 'Twould not be in so grand a man's nature 
to let his fowls go hungry. And do we be 
hearing such tales every night ? " 

" Maybe Abner '11 keep on, now he's started 
again," I said. " We ain't had any Bible- 
reading before since he had his row down at 
the church, and we left off going." 

Hurley displayed such a lively interest in 
this matter that I went over it pretty fully, 



ABSALOM 45 

setting forth Aimer's position and the intol- 
erable provocations which had been forced 
upon him. It took him a long time to grasp 
the idea that in Protestant gatherings not 
only the pastor spoke, but the class-leaders 
and all others who were conscious of a call 
might have their word as well, and that in 
this way even the lowliest and meanest of 
the farmer's neighbors had been able to 
affront him in the church itself. 

" Too many cooks spoil the broth," was 
his comment upon this. " 'Tis far better to 
hearken to one man only. If he's right, 
you're right. If he's wrong, why, thin, 
there ye have him in front of ye for protec- 
tion." 

Bed-time came soon after, and Mrs. Beech 
appeared in her nightly round of the house 
to see that the doors were all fastened. The 
candle she bore threw up a flaring yellow 
light upon her chin, but made the face above 
it by contrast still darker and more saturnine. 
She moved about in erect impassiveness, 
trying the bolts and the window catches, 
and went away again, having said never a 
word. I had planned to ask her if I might 
now have a bed to myself, but somehow my 



46 THE COPPERHEAD 

courage failed me, so stern and majestic was 
her aspect. 

I took the desired boon without asking, 
and dreamed of her as a darkling and relent- 
less Joab in petticoats, slaying her own son 
Jeff as he hung by his hay-colored hair in 
one of the apple-trees of our orchard. 



CHAPTER IV 



ANTIETAM 



On all the other farms roundabout, this 
mid-August was a slack season. The hired 
men and boys did a little early fruit-picking, 
a little berrying, a little stone-drawing, but 
for the most part they could be seen idling 
about the woods or along the river down 
below Juno Mills, with gun or fish-pole. 
Only upon the one farm whose turn it was 
that week to be visited by the itinerant 
threshing-machine, was any special activity 
visible. 

It was well known, however, that we were 
not to get the threshing-machine at all. How 
it was managed, I never understood. Per- 
haps the other farmers combined in some 
way to over-awe or persuade the owners of 
the machine into refusing it to Abner Beech. 
More likely he scented the chance of a re- 
fusal and was too proud to put himself in its 
way by asking. At all events, we three — 
Abner, Hurley, and I — had to manage the 
47 



48 THE COPPERHEAD 

threshing ourselves, on the matched wood 
floor of the carriage barn. All the fishing 
I did that year was in the prolific but unsub- 
stantial waters of dreamland. 

I did not work much, it is true, with the 
flail, but I lived all day in an atmosphere 
choked with dust and chaff, my ears deafened 
with the ceaseless whack ! whack ! of the 
hard wood clubs, bringing on fresh shocks 
of grain, and acting as general helper. 

By toiling late and early we got this task 
out of the way just when the corn was ready 
to cut. This great job taxed all the energies 
of the two men, the one cutting, the other 
stacking, as they went. My own share of 
the labor was to dig the potatoes and pick 
the eating-apples — a quite portentous enough 
undertaking for a lad of twelve. All this 
kept me very much to myself. There was 
no chance to talk during the day, and at 
night I was glad to drag my tired limbs off 
to bed before the girls had fairly cleared 
the supper things away. A weekly news- 
paper — The World — came regularly to the 
post-office at the Corners for us, but we were 
so over-worked that often it lay there for 
weeks at a time, and even when someone 



ANTIETAM 49 

went after it, nobody but Abner cared to 
read it. 

So far as I know, no word ever came from 
Jeff. His name was never mentioned among 
us. 

It was now past the middle of September. 
Except for the fall ploughing on fields that 
were to be put to grass under the grain in 
the spring — which would come much later 
— the getting in of the root crops, and the 
husking, our season's labors were pretty well 
behind us. The women folk had toiled like 
slaves as well, taking almost all the chores 
about the cattle-barns off our shoulders, 
and carrying on the butter-making without 
bothering us. Now that a good many cows 
were drying up, it was their turn to take 
things easy, too. But the girls, instead of 
being glad at this, began to borrow unhappi- 
ness over the certainty that there would be 
no husking-bees on the Beech farm. 

One heard no other subject discussed now, 
as we sat of a night in the kitchen. Even 
when we foregathered in the living-room 
instead, the Babcock and the Underwood 
girl talked in ostentatiously low tones of the 
hardship of missing such opportunities for 



50 THE COPPERHEAD 

getting beaux, and having fun. They re- 
called to each other, with tones of longing, 
this and that husking-bee of other years — 
now one held of a moonlight night in the 
field itself, where the young men pulled the 
stacks down and dragged them to where 
the girls sat in a ring on big pumpkins, 
and merriment, songs, and chorused laughter 
chased the happy hours along ; now of a bee 
held in the late wintry weather, where the 
men went off to the barn by themselves and 
husked till they were tired, and then with 
warning whoops came back to where the 
girls were waiting for them in the warm, 
hospitable farm-house, and the frolic began, 
with cider and apples and pumpkin-pies, 
and old Lem Hornbeck's fiddle to lead the 
dancing. 

Alas ! they shook their empty heads and 
mourned, there would be no more of these 
delightful times ! Nothing definite was ever 
said as to the reason for our ostracism from 
the sports and social enjoyments of the sea- 
son. There was no need for that. We all 
knew too well that it was Abner Beech's 
politics which made us outcasts, but even 
these two complaining girls did not venture 



ANTIETAM 51 

to say so in his hearing. Their talk, how- 
ever, grew at last so persistently querulous 
that " M'rye " bluntly told them one night 
to "shut up about husking-bees," following 
them out into the kitchen for that purpose, 
and speaking with unaccustomed acerbity. 
Thereafter we heard no more of their grum- 
bling, but in a week or two " Till " Babcock 
left for her home over on the Dutch Road, 
and began circulating the report that we 
prayed every night for the success of Jeff 
Davis. 

It was on a day in the latter half of 
September, perhaps the 20th or 21st — as 
nearly as I am able to make out from the 
records now — that Hurley and I started off 
with a double team and our big box-wagon, 
just after breakfast, on a long day's journey. 
We were taking a heavy load of potatoes in 
to market at Octavius, twelve miles distant ; 
thence we were to drive out an additional 
three miles to a cooper-shop and bring back 
as many butter-firkins as we could stack up 
behind us, not to mention a lot of groceries 
of which " M'rye " gave me a list. 

It was a warm, sweet aired, hazy autumn 
day, with a dusky red sun sauntering idly 



52 THE COPPERHEAD 

about in the sky, too indolent to cast more 
than the dimmest and most casual suggestion 
of a shadow for anything or anybody. The 
Irishman sat round-backed and contented on 
the very high seat overhanging the horses, 
his elbows on his knees, and a little black 
pipe turned upside down in his mouth. He 
would suck satisfiedly at this for hours 
after the fire had gone out, until, my patience 
exhausted, I begged him to light it again. He 
seemed almost never to put any new tobacco 
into this pipe, and to this day it remains a 
twin-mystery to me why its contents neither 
burned themselves to nothing nor fell out. 

We talked a good deal, in a desultory 
fashion, as the team plodded their slow way 
into Octavius. Hurley told me, in answer 
to the questions of a curious boy, many inter- 
esting and remarkable things about the old 
country, as he always called it, and more 
particularly about his native part of it, which 
was on the sea-shore within sight of Skibbereen. 
He professed always to be filled with longing 
to go back, but at the same time guarded 
his tiny personal expenditure with the great- 
est solicitude, in order to save money to help 
one of his relations to get away. Once, when 



ANTIETAM 53 

I taxed him with this inconsistency, he ex- 
plained that life in Ireland was the most 
delicious thing on earth, but you had to get 
off at a distance of some thousands of miles 
to really appreciate it. 

Naturally there was considerable talk 
between us, as well, about Abner Beech 
and his troubles. I don't know where I 
could have heard it, but when Hurley first 
came to us I at once took it for granted that 
the fact of his nationality made him a sym- 
pathizer with the views of our household. 
Perhaps I only jumped at this conclusion 
from the general ground that the few Irish 
who in those days found their way into the 
farm-country were held rather at arms-length 
by the community, and must in the nature 
of things feel drawn to other outcasts. At 
all events, I made no mistake. Hurley could 
not have well been more vehemently em- 
bittered against abolitionism and the war 
than Abner was, but he expressed his feel- 
ings with much greater vivacity and fluency 
of speech. It was surprising to see how 
much he knew about the politics and political 
institutions of a strange country, and how 
excited he grew about them when anyone 



54 THE COPPERHEAD 

would listen to him. But as he was a small 
man, getting on in years, he did not dare air 
these views down at the Corners. The 
result was that he and Abner were driven 
to commune together, and mutually inflamed 
each other's passionate prejudices — which 
was not at all needful. 

When at last, shortly before noon, we 
drove into Octavius, I jumped off to fill 
one portion of the grocery errands, leaving 
Hurley to drive on with the potatoes. We 
were to meet at the little village tavern for 
dinner. 

He was feeding the horses in the hotel 
shed when I rejoined him an hour or so 
later. I came in, bursting with the impor- 
tance of the news I had picked up — 
scattered, incomplete, and even incoherent 
news, but of a most exciting sort. The 
awful battle of Antietam had happened two 
or three days before, and nobody in all 
Octavius was talking or thinking of any- 
thing else. Both the Dearborn County regi- 
ments had been in the thick of the fight, 
and I could see from afar, as I stood on the 
outskirts of the throng in front of the post- 
office, some long strips of paper posted up 



ANTIETAM 55 

beside the door, which men said contained 
a list of our local dead and wounded. It 
was hopeless, however, to attempt to get 
anywhere near this list, and nobody whom 
I questioned, knew anything about the names 
of those young men who had marched away 
from our Four Corners. Someone did call 
out, though, that the telegraph had broken 
down, or gone wrong, and that not half the 
news had come in as yet. But they were all 
so deeply stirred up, so fiercely pushing and 
hauling to get toward the door, that I could 
learn little else. 

This was what I began to tell Hurley, 
with eager volubility, as soon as I got in 
under the shed. He went on with his back 
to me, impassively measuring out the oats 
from the bag, and clearing aside the stale 
hay in the manger, the impatient horses 
rubbing at his shoulders with their noses the 
while. Then, as I was nearly done, he turned 
and came out to me, slapping the fodder- 
mess off his hands. 

He had a big, fresh cut running trans- 
versely across his nose and cheek, and there 
were stains of blood in the gray stubble of 
beard on his chin. I saw too that his clothes 



56 THE COPPERHEAD 

looked as if lie bad been rolled on tbe dusty 
road outside. 

" Sure, tben, I'm after bearin' the news 
myself," was all be said. 

He drew out from beneath the wagon seat 
a bag of crackers and a hunk of cheese, and, 
seating himself on an overturned barrel, began 
to eat. By a gesture I was invited to share 
this meal, and did so, sitting beside him. 
Something had happened, apparently, to pre- 
vent our having dinner in the tavern. 

I fairly yearned to ask him what this 
something was, and what was the matter 
with his face, but it did not seem quite the 
right thing to do, and presently he began 
mumbling, as much to himself as to me, a 
long and broken discourse, from which I 
j)icked out that he had mingled with a group 
of lusty young farmers in the market-place, 
asking for the latest intelligence, and that 
while they were conversing in a wholly 
amiable manner, one of them had suddenly 
knocked him down and kicked him, and that 
thereafter they had pursued him with curses 
and loud threats half-way to the tavern. 
This and much more he proclaimed between 
mouthfuls, speaking with great rapidity and 



ANTIETAM 57 

in so much more marked a brogue than usual, 
that I understood only a fraction of what he 
said. 

He professed entire innocence of offence 
in the affair, and either could not or would 
not tell what it was he had said to invite 
the blow. I dare say he did in truth richly 
provoke the violence he encountered, but at 
the time I regarded him as a martyr, and 
swelled with indignation every time I looked 
at his nose. 

I remained angry, indeed, long after he 
himself had altogether recovered his equanim- 
ity and whimsical good spirits. He waited 
outside on the seat while I went in to pay 
for the baiting of the horses, and it was as 
well that he did, I fancy, because there were 
half a dozen brawny farm-hands and villagers 
standing about the bar, who were laughing 
in a stormy way over the episode of the 
" Copperhead Paddy " in the market. 

We drove away, however, without incident 
of any sort — sagaciously turning off the 
main street before we reached the post-office 
block, where the congregated crowd seemed 
larger than ever. There seemed to be some 
fresh tidings, for several scattering outbursts 



58 THE COPPERHEAD 

of cheering reached our ears after we could 
no longer see the throng; but, so far from 
stopping to inquire what it was, Hurley put 
whip to the horses, and we rattled smartly 
along out of the excited village into the 
tranquil, scythe-shorn country. 

The cooper to whom we now went for our 
butter-firkins was a long-nosed, lean, and 
taciturn man, whom I think of always as 
with his apron tucked up at the corner, and 
his spectacles on his forehead, close under 
the edge of his square brown-paper cap. 
He had had word that we were coming, and 
the firkins were ready for us. He helped 
us load them in dead silence, and with a 
gloomy air. 

Hurley desired the sound of his own voice. 
" Well, then, sir," he said, as our task neared 
completion, " 'tis worth coming out of our 
way these fifteen miles to lay eyes on such 
fine, grand firkins as these same — such an 
elegant shape on 'em, an' put together wid 
such nateness ! " 

" You could git 'em just as good at 
Hagadorn's," said the cooper, curtly, " within 
a mile of your place." 

" Huh ! " cried Hurley, with contempt, 



ANTIETAM 59 

" Haggydorn is it? Faith, we'll not touch 
him or his firkins ay ether ! Why, man, 
they're not fit to mention the same day wid 
yours. Ah, just look at the darlins, will ye, 
that nate an' clane a Christian could ate from 



em 



The cooper was blarney-proof. "Haga- 
dorn's are every smitch as good ! " he re- 
peated, ungraciously. 

The Irishman looked at him perplexedly, 
then shook his head as if the problem were 
too much for him, and slowly clambered up 
to the seat. He had gathered up the lines, 
and we were ready to start, before any 
suitable words came to his tongue. 

" Well, then, sir," he said, " anything to 
be agreeable. If I hear a man speaking a 
good word for your firkins, I'll dispute him." 

" The firkins are well enough," growled 
the cooper at us, " an' they're made to sell, 
but I ain't so almighty tickled about takin' 
Copperhead money for 'em that I want to 
clap my wings an' crow over it." 

He turned scornfully on his heel at this, 
and we drove away. The new revelation 
of our friendlessness depressed me, but 
Hurley did not seem to mind it at all. 



60 THE COPPERHEAD 

After a philosophic comparative remark 
about the manners of pigs run wild in a bog, 
he dismissed the affair from his thoughts 
altogether, and hummed cheerful words to 
melancholy tunes half the way home, what 
time he was not talking to the horses or 
tossing stray conversational fragments at me. 

My own mind soon enough surrendered 
itself to harrowing speculations about the 
battle we had heard of. The war had been 
going on now, for over a year, but most of 
the fighting had been away off in Missouri 
and Tennessee, or on the lower Mississippi, 
and the reports had not possessed for me any 
keen direct interest. The idea of men from 
our own district — young men whom I had 
seen, perhaps fooled with, in the hayfield 
only ten weeks before — being in an actual 
storm of shot and shell, produced a faintness 
at the pit of my stomach. Both Dearborn 
County regiments were in it, the crowd said. 
Then of course our men must have been 
there — our hired men, and the Phillips boys, 
and Byron Truax, and his cousin Alonzo, 
and our Jeff ! And if so many others had 
been killed, why not they as well ? 

"Antietam" still has a power to arrest 



ANTIETAM 61 

my eyes on the printed page, and disturb 
my ears in the hearing, possessed by no other 
battle name. It seems now as if the very 
word itself had a terrible meaning of its own 
to me, when I first heard it that September 
afternoon — as if I recognized it to be the 
label of some awful novelty, before I knew 
anything else. It had its fascination for 
Hurley, too, for presently I heard him croon- 
ing to himself, to one of his queer old Irish 
tunes, some doggerel lines which he had 
made up to rhyme with it — three lines with 
"cheat 'em," "beat 'em," and "Antietam," 
and then his pet refrain, " Says the Shan van 
Vocht." 

This levity jarred unpleasantly upon the 
mood into which I had worked myself, and 
I turned to speak of it, but the sight of his 
bruised nose and cheek restrained me. He 
had suffered too much for the faith that was 
in him to be lightly questioned now. So I 
returned to my grisly thoughts, which now 
all at once resolved themselves into a convic- 
tion that Jeff had been killed outright. My 
fancy darted to meet this notion, and straight- 
way pictured for me a fantastic battle-field 
by moonlight, such as was depicted in 



62 THE COPPERHEAD 

Lossing's books, with overturned cannon- 
wheels and dead horses in the foreground, 
and in the centre, conspicuous above all else, 
the inanimate form of Jeff Beech, with its 
face coldly radiant in the moonshine. 

"I guess I'll hop off and walk a spell," 
I said, under the sudden impulse of this 
distressing visitation. 

It was only when I was on the ground, 
trudging along by the side of the wagon, 
that I knew why I had got down. We were 
within a few rods of the Corners, where one 
road turned off to go to the post-office. " Per- 
haps it'd be a good idea for me to find out if 
they've heard anything more — I mean — any- 
thing about Jeff," I suggested. " I'll just 
look in and see, and then I can cut home 
cross lots." 

The Irishman nodded and drove on. 

I hung behind, at the Corners, till the 
wagon had begun the ascent of the hill, and 
the looming bulk of the firkins made it im- 
possible that Hurley could see which way I 
went. Then, without hesitation, I turned 
instead down the other road which led to 
" Jee " Hagadorn's. 



CHAPTER V 

" JEE'S " TIDINGS 

Time was when I had known the Hagadorn 
house, from the outside at least, as well as 
any other in the whole township. But I had 
avoided that road so long now, that when I 
came up to the place it seemed quite strange 
to my eyes. 

For one thing, the flower garden was 
much bigger than it had formerly been. 
To state it differently, Miss Esther's mari- 
golds and columbines, hollyhocks and peonies, 
had been allowed to usurp a lot of space where 
sweet-corn, potatoes and other table-truck used 
to be raised. This not only greatly altered the 
aspect of the place, but it lowered my idea of 
the practical good-sense of its owners. 

What was more striking still, was the gen- 
eral air of decrepitude and decay about the 
house itself. An eaves-trough had fallen 
down ; half the cellar door was off its hinges, 
standing up against the wall ; the chimney 
was ragged and broken at the top ; the clap- 
63 



64 THE COPPERHEAD 

boards had never been painted, and now 
were almost black with weather-stain and 
dry rot. It positively appeared to me as if 
the house was tipping sideways, over against 
the little cooper-shop adjoining it — but per- 
haps that was a trick of the waning evening 
light. I said to myself that if we were not 
prospering on the Beech farm, at least our 
foe " Jee " Hagadorn did not seem to be 
doing much better himself. 

In truth, Hagadorn had always been among 
the poorest members of our community, though 
this by no means involves what people in cities 
think of as poverty. He had a little place of 
nearly two acres, and then he had his cooper- 
ing business ; with the two he ought to have 
got on comfortably enough. But a certain 
contrariness in his nature seemed to be con- 
tinually interfering with this. 

This strain of conscientious perversity ran 
through all we knew of his life before he came 
to us, just as it dominated the remainder of 
his career. He had been a well-to-do man 
some ten years before, in a city in the west- 
ern part of the State, with a big cooper-shop, 
and a lot of men under him, making the bar- 
rels for a large brewery. (It was in these 



"JEE'S" TIDINGS 65 

days, I fancy, that Esther took on that urban 
polish which the younger Benaiah missed.) 
Then he got the notion in his head that it 
was wrong to make barrels for beer, and 
threw the whole thing up. He moved into 
our neighborhood with only money enough 
to buy the old Andrews place, and build a 
little shop. 

It was a good opening for a cooper, and 
Hagadorn might have flourished if he had 
been able to mind his own business. The 
very first thing he did was to offend a num- 
ber of our biggest butter-makers by taxing 
them with sinfulness in also raising hops, 
which went to make beer. For a long time 
they would buy no firkins of him. Then, 
too, he made an unpleasant impression at 
church. As has been said, our meeting- 
house was a union affair ; that is to say, no 
one denomination being numerous enough to 
have an edifice of its own, all the farmers 
roundabout — Methodists, Baptists, Presby- 
terians, and so on — joined in paying the 
expenses. The travelling preachers who came 
to us represented these great sects, with lots 
of minute shadings off into Hard-shell, Soft- 
shell, Freewill, and other subdivided mys- 



66 THE COPPERHEAD 

teries which I never understood. Hagadorn 
had a denomination all to himself, as might 
have been expected from the man. What 
the name of it was I seem never to have 
heard ; perhaps it had no name at all. Peo- 
ple used to say, though, that he behaved like 
a Shouting Methodist. 

This was another way of saying that he 
made a nuisance of himself in church. At 
prayer meetings, in the slack seasons of the 
year, he would pray so long, and with such 
tremendous shouting and fury of gestures, 
that he had regularly to be asked to stop, so 
that those who had taken the trouble to learn 
and practise new hymns might have a chance 
to be heard. And then he would out-sing all 
the others, not knowing the tune in the least, 
and cause added confusion by yelling out 
shrill " Aniens ! " between the bars. At one 
time quite a number of the leading people 
ceased attending church at all, on account of 
his conduct. 

He added heavily to his theological unpop- 
ularity, too, by his action in another matter. 
There was a wealthy and important farmer 
living over on the west side of Agrippa Hill, 
who was a Universalist. The expenses of 



"JEE'S" TIDINGS 67 

our union meeting-house were felt to be a 
good deal of a burden, and our elders, con- 
ferring together, decided that it would be a 
good thing to waive ordinary prejudices, and 
let the Universalists come in, and have their 
share of the preaching. It would be more 
neighborly, they felt, and they would get a 
subscription from the Agrippa Hill farmer. 
He assented to the project, and came over 
four or five Sundays with his family and 
hired help, listened unflinchingly to orthodox 
sermons full of sulphur and blue flames, and 
put money on the plate every time. Then a 
Universalist preacher occupied the pulpit one 
Sunday, and preached a highly inoffensive 
and non-committal sermon, and " Jee " Haga- 
dorn stood up in his pew and violently de- 
nounced him as an infidel, before he had 
descended the pulpit steps. This created a 
painful scandal. The Universalist farmer, 
of course, never darkened that church door 
again. Some of our young men went so far 
as to discuss the ducking of the obnoxious 
cooper in the duck-pond. But he himself 
was neither frightened nor ashamed. 

At the beginning, too, I suppose that his 
taking up Abolitionism made him enemies. 



68 THE COPPERHEAD 

Dearborn County gave Franklin Pierce a 
big majority in '52, and the bulk of our 
farmers, I know, were in that majority. But 
I have already dwelt upon the way in which 
all this changed in the years just before the 
war. Naturally enough, Hagadorn's posi- 
tion also changed. The rejected stone be- 
came the head of the corner. The tiresome 
fanatic of the 'fifties was the inspired prophet 
of the 'sixties. People still shrank from 
giving him undue credit for their conversion, 
but they felt themselves swept along under 
his influence none the less. 

But just as his unpopularity kept him poor 
in the old days, it seemed that now the re- 
versed condition was making him still poorer. 
The truth was, he was too excited to pay any 
attention to his business. He went off to 
Octavius three or four days a week to hear 
the news, and when he remained at home, he 
spent much more time standing out in the 
road discussing politics and the conduct of 
the war with passers-by, than he did over his 
staves and hoops. No wonder his place was 
run down. 

The house was dark and silent, but there 
was some sort of a light in the cooper-shop 



"JEE'S" TIDINGS 69 

beyond. My hope had been to see Esther 
rather than her wild old father, but there 
was nothing for it but to go over to the shop. 
I pushed the loosely fitting door back on its 
leathern hinges, and stepped over the thresh- 
old. The resinous scent of newly cut wood, 
and the rustle of the shavings under my feet, 
had the effect, somehow, of filling me with 
timidity. It required an effort to not turn 
and go out again. 

The darkened and crowded interior of the 
tiny work-place smelt as well, I noted now, of 
smoke. On the floor before me was crouched 
a shapeless figure — bending in front of the 
little furnace, made of a section of stove-pipe, 
which the cooper used, to dry the insides of 
newly fashioned barrels. A fire in this, half- 
blaze, half-smudge — gave forth the light I 
had seen from without, and the smoke which 
was making my nostrils tingle. Then I had 
to sneeze, and the kneeling figure sprang on 
the instant from the floor. 

It was Esther who stood before me, cough- 
ing a little from the smoke, and peering in- 
quiringly at me. " Oh — is that you, Jimmy? " 
she asked, after a moment of puzzled inspec- 
tion in the dark. 



70 THE COPPERHEAD 

She went on, before I had time to speak, 
in a nervous, half-laughing way : " I've been 
trying to roast an ear of corn here, but it's 
the worst kind of a failure. I've watched 
' Ni ' do it a hundred times, but with me it 
always comes out half-scorched and half- 
smoked. I guess the corn is too old now, 
any way. At all events, it's tougher than 
Pharaoh's heart." 

She held out to me, in proof of her words, 
a blackened and unseemly roasting-ear. I 
took it, and turned it slowly over, looking at 
it with the grave scrutiny of an expert. 
Several torn and opened sections showed 
where she had been testing it with her teeth. 
In obedience to her " See if you don't think 
it's too old," I took a diffident bite, at a 
respectful distance from the marks of her 
experiments. It was the worst I had ever 
tasted. 

" I came over to see if you'd heard any- 
thing — any news," I said, desiring to get 
away from the corn subject. 

" You mean about Tom ? " she asked, 
moving so that she might see me more 
plainly. 

I had stupidly forgotten about that trans- 



"JEE'S" TIDINGS 71 

formation of names. " Our Jeff, I mean," 
I made answer. 

" His name is Thomas Jefferson. We call 
him Tom," she explained ; " that other name 
is too horrid. Did — did his people tell you 
to come and ask me ? " 

I shook my head. " Oh no ! " I replied 
with emphasis, implying by my tone, I dare 
say, that they would have had themselves 
cut up into sausage-meat first. 

The girl walked past me to the door, and 
out to the road-side, looking down toward 
the bridge with a lingering, anxious gaze. 
Then she came back, slowly. 

" No, we have no news ! " she said, with 
an effort at calmness. " He wasn't an officer, 
that's why. All we know is that the brigade 
his regiment is in lost 141 killed, 560 
wounded, and 38 missing. That's all ! " She 
stood in the doorway, her hands clasped 
tight, pressed against her bosom. " That's 
alir'' she repeated, with a choking voice. 

Suddenly she started forward, almost ran 
across the few yards of floor, and, throwing 
herself down in the darkest corner, where 
only dimly one could see an old buffalo-robe 
spread over a heap of staves, began sobbing 
as if her heart must break. 



72 THE COPPERHEAD 

Her dress had brushed over the stove-pipe, 
and scattered some of the embers beyond the 
sheet of tin it stood on. I stamped these 
out, and carried the other remnants of the 
fire out doors. Then I returned, and stood 
about in the smoky little shop, quite help- 
lessly listening to the moans and convulsive 
sobs which rose from the obscure corner. A 
bit of a candle in a bottle stood on the shelf 
by the window. I lighted this, but it hardly 
seemed to improve the situation. I could 
see her now, as well as hear her — huddled 
face downward upon the skin, her whole 
form shaking with the violence of her grief. 
I had never been so unhappy before in my 
life. 

At last — it may not have been very long, 
but it seemed hours — there rose the sound 
of voices outside on the road. A wagon had 
stopped, and some words were being ex- 
changed. One of the voices grew louder — 
came nearer ; the other died off, ceased 
altogether, and the wagon could be heard 
driving away. On the instant the door was 
pushed sharply open, and " Jee " Hagadorn 
stood on the threshold, surveying the interior 
of his cooper-shop with gleaming eyes. 



"JEE'S" TIDINGS 73 

He looked at me ; he looked at his daugh- 
ter lying in the corner ; he looked at the 
charred mess on the floor — yet seemed to 
see nothing of what he looked at. His face 
glowed with a strange excitement — which 
in another man I should have set down to 
drink. 

" Glory be to God ! Praise to the Most 
High ! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the 
coming of the Lord ! " he called out, stretch- 
ing forth his hands in a rapturous sort of 
gesture I remembered from class-meeting days. 

Esther had leaped to her feet with squirrel- 
like swiftness at the sound of his voice, and 
now stood before him, her hands nervously 
clutching at each other, her reddened, tear- 
stained face a-fire with eagerness. 

" Has word come ? — is he safe ? — have 
you heard?" so her excited questions 
tumbled over one another, as she grasped 
" Jee's " sleeve and shook it in feverish 
impatience. 

" The day has come ! The year of Jubilee 
is here ! " he cried, brushing her hand aside, 
and staring with a fixed, ecstatic, open- 
mouthed smile straight ahead of him. " The 
words of the Prophet are fulfilled ! " 



74 THE COPPERHEAD 

"But Tom!— Tom!" pleaded the girl, 
piteously. " The list has come ? You know 
he is safe ? " 

"Tom! Tom!" old "Jee" repeated after 
her, but with an emphasis contemptuous, not 
solicitous. " Perish a hundred Toms — yea 
— ten thousand ! for one such day as this ! 
' For the Scarlet Woman of Babylon is over- 
thrown, and bound with chains and cast into 
the lake of fire. Therefore, in one day shall 
her plagues come, death, and mourning, and 
famine ; and she shall be utterly burned with 
fire : for strong is the Lord God which 
judged her ! ' " 

He declaimed these words in a shrill, high- 
pitched voice, his face upturned, and his 
eyes half-closed. Esther plucked despair- 
ingly at his sleeve once more. 

" But have you seen ? — is his name ? — 
you must have seen ! " she moaned, incoher- 
ently. 

" Jee " descended for the moment from his 
plane of exaltation. " I didn't see ! " he said, 
almost peevishly. " Lincoln has signed a 
proclamation freeing all the slaves ! What 
do you suppose I care for your Toms and 
Dicks and Harrys, on such a day as this? 



"JEE'S" TIDINGS 75 

' Woe ! woe ! the great city Babylon, the 
strong city ! For in one hour is thy judg- 
ment come ! ' " 

The girl tottered back to her corner, and 
threw herself limply down upon the buffalo- 
robe again, hiding her face in her hands. 

I pushed my way past the cooper, and 
trudged cross-lots home in the dark, tired, 
disturbed, and very hungry, but thinking 
most of all that if I had been worth my salt, 
I would have hit " Jee " Hagadorn with the 
adze that stood up against the door-still. 



CHAPTER VI 

NT'S TALK WITH ABNER 

It must have been a fortnight before we 
learned that Jeff Beech and Byron Truax 
had been reported missing. I say " we," but 
I do not know when Abner Beech came to 
hear about it. One of the hired girls had 
seen the farmer get up from his chair, with 
the newly arrived weekly World in his hand, 
walk over to where his wife sat, and direct 
her attention to a line of the print with his 
finger. Then, still in silence, he had gone 
over to the bookc;se, opened the drawer 
where he kept his account-books, and locked 
the journal up therein. 

We took it for granted that thus the 
elderly couple had learned the news about 
their son. They said so little nowadays, 
either to each other or to us, that we 
were driven to speculate upon their dumb- 
show, and find meanings for ourselves in 
their glances and actions. No one of us 
could imagine himself or herself ventur- 
76 



NTS TALK WITH ABNER 77 

ing to mention Jeff's name in their hear- 
ing. 

Down at the Corners, though, and all 
about our district, people talked of very 
little else. Antietam had given a bloody 
welcome to our little group of warriors. 
Ray Watkins and Lon Truax had been killed 
outright, and Ed Phillips was in the hospital, 
with the chances thought to be against him. 
Warner Pitts, our other hired man, had been 
wounded in the arm, but not seriously, and 
thereafter behaved with such conspicuous 
valor that it was said he was to be promoted 
from being a sergeant to a lieutenancy. All 
these things, however, paled in interest after 
the first few days before the fascinating 
mystery of what had become of Jeff and 
Byron. The loungers about the grocery- 
store evenings took sides as to the definition 
of "missing." Some said it meant being 
taken prisoners ; but it was known that at 
Antietam the Rebels made next to no cap- 
tives. Others held that " missing " soldiers 
were those who had been shot, and who 
crawled off somewhere in the woods out of 
sight to die. A lumberman from Juno Mills, 
who was up on a horse-trade, went so far as 



78 THE COPPERHEAD 

to broach still a third theory, viz., that 
" missing " soldiers were those who had run 
away under fire, and were ashamed to show 
their faces again. But this malicious sug- 
gestion could not, of course, be seriously 
considered. 

Meanwhile, what little remained of the 
fall farm-work went on as if nothing had 
happened. The root-crops were dug, the 
fodder got in, and the late apples gathered. 
Abner had a cider-mill of his own, but we 
sold a much larger share of our winter 
apples than usual. Less manure was drawn 
out onto the fields than in other autumns, 
and it looked as if there was to be little or 
no fall ploughing. Abner went about his 
tasks in a heavy, spiritless way these days, 
doggedly enough, but with none of his old- 
time vim. He no longer had pleasure even 
in abusing Lincoln and the war with Hurley. 
Not Antietam itself could have broken his 
nerve, but at least it silenced his tongue. 

Warner Pitts came home on a furlough, 
with a fine new uniform, shoulder-straps and 
sword, and his arm in a sling. I say "home," 
but the only roof he had ever slept under in 
these parts, was ours, and now he stayed as 



NI'8 TALK WITH ABNEB 79 

a guest at Squire Avery's house, and never 
came near our farm. He was a tall, brown- 
faced, sinewy fellow, with curly hair and a 
pushing manner. Although he had been 
only a hired man he now cut a great dash 
down at the Corners, with his shoulder-straps 
and his officer's cape. It was said that he 
had declined several invitations to husking- 
bees, and that when he left the service, at 
the end of his time, he had a place ready for 
him in some city as a clerk in a drygoods 
store — that is, of course, if he did not get to 
be colonel or general. From time to time he 
was seen walking out through the dry, rust- 
ling leaves with Squire Avery's oldest 
daughter. 

This important military genius did not 
seem able, however, to throw much light 
upon the whereabouts of the two " missing " 
boys. From what I myself heard him say 
about the battle, and from what others re- 
ported of his talk, it seems that in the very 
early morning Hooker's line — a part of which 
consisted of Dearborn County men — moved 
forward through a big cornfield, the stalks of 
which were much higher than the soldiers' 
heads. When they came out, the rebels 



80 THE COPPERHEAD 

opened such a hideous fire of cannon and 
musketry upon them from the woods close by, 
that those who did not fall were glad to run 
back again into the corn for shelter. Thus 
all became confusion, and the men were so 
mixed up that there was no getting them to- 
gether again. Some went one way, some an- 
other, through the tall corn-rows, and Warner 
Pitts could not remember having seen either 
Jeff or Byron at all after the march began. 
Parts of the regiment formed again out on 
the road toward the Dunker church, but other 
parts found themselves half a mile away 
among the fragments of a Michigan regiment, 
and a good many more were left lying in the 
fatal cornfield. Our boys had not been traced 
among the dead, but that did not prove that 
they were alive. And so we were no wiser 
than before. 

Warner Pitts only nodded in a distant way 
to me when he saw me first, with a cool 
" Hello, youngster ! " I expected that he 
would ask after the folks at the farm which 
had been so long his home, but he turned to 
talk with someone else, and said never a 
word. Once, some days afterward, he called 
out as I passed him, " How's the old Copper- 



Nl'S TALK WITH ABNEB 81 

head? " and the Avery! girl who was with him 
laughed aloud, but I went on without answer- 
ing. He was already down in my black- 
books, in company with pretty nearly every 
other human being roundabout. 

This list of enemies was indeed so full that 
there were times when I felt like crying over 
my isolation. It may be guessed, then, how 
rejoiced I was one afternoon to see Ni Haga- 
dorn squeeze his way through our orchard- 
bars, and saunter across under the trees to 
where I was at work sorting a heap of apples 
into barrels. I could have run to meet him, 
so grateful was the sight of any friendly, boy- 
ish face. The thought that perhaps after all 
he had not come to see me in particular, and 
that possibly he brought some news about 
Jeff, only flashed across my mind after I had 
smiled a broad welcome upon him, and he 
stood leaning against a barrel munching the 
biggest russet he had been able to pick out. 

" Abner to home ? " he asked, after a pause 
of neighborly silence. He hadn't come to see 
me after all. 

" He's around the barns somewhere," I re- 
plied ; adding, upon reflection, " Have you 
heard something fresh?" 



82 THE COPPERHEAD 

Ni shook his sorrel head, and buried his 
teeth deep into the apple. " No, nothin'," he 
said, at last, with his mouth full, " only 
thought I'd come up an' talk it over with 
Abner." 

The calm audacity of the proposition took 
my breath away. " He'll boot you off 'm the 
place if you try it," I warned him. 

But Ni did not scare easily. " Oh, no," 
he said, with light confidence, "me an' 
Abner's all right." 

As if to put this assurance to the test, the 
figure of the farmer was at this moment visi- 
ble, coming toward us down the orchard road. 
He was in his shirt-sleeves, with the limp, 
discolored old broad-brimmed felt hat he al- 
ways wore pulled down over his eyes. Though 
he no longer held his head so proudly erect 
as I could remember it, there were still sug- 
gestions of great force and mastership in his 
broad shoulders and big beard, and in the 
solid, long-gaited manner of his walk. He 
carried a pitchfork in his hand. 

"Hello, Abner?" said Ni, as the farmer 
came up and halted, surveying each of us in 
turn with an impassive scrutiny. 

" How Y ye ! " returned Abner, with cold 



NI'S TALK WITH ABNER 83 

civility. I fancied he must be surprised to 
see the son of his enemy here, calmly gnawing 
his way through one of our apples, and acting 
as if the place belonged to him. But he gave 
no signs of astonishment, and after some 
words of direction to me concerning my 
work, started to move on again toward the 
barns. 

Ni was not disposed to be thus cheated out 
of his conversation : " Seen Warner Pitts 
since he's got back?" he called out, and at 
this the farmer stopped and turned round. 
" You'd hardly know him now," the butcher's 
assistant went on, with cheerful briskness. 
" Why you'd think he'd never hoofed it over 
ploughed land in all his life. He's got his 
boots blacked up every day, an' his hair 
greased, an' a whole new suit of broadcloth, 
with shoulder-straps an' brass buttons, an' a 
sword — he brings it down to the Corners 
every evening, so't the boys at the store can 
heft it— an' he's — " 

" What do I care about all this ? " broke in 
Abner. His voice was heavy, with a growling 
ground-note, and his eyes threw out an angry 
light under the shading hat-brim. " He can 
go to the devil, an' take his sword with him, 
for all o' me ! " 



84 THE COPPERHEAD 

Hostile as was his tone, the farmer did not 
again turn on his heel. Instead, he seemed to 
suspect that Ni had something more impor- 
tant to say, and looked him steadfastly in the 
face. 

" That's what I say, too," replied Ni, 
lightly. " What's beat me is how such a 
fellow as that got to be an officer right from 
the word ' go ! ' — an' him the poorest shote 
in the whole lot. Now if it had a' ben 
Spencer Phillips I could understand it — or 
Bi Truax, or — or your Jeff — " 

The farmer raised his fork menacingly, 
with a wrathful gesture. " Shet up ! " he 
shouted ; " shet up, I say ! or I'll make ye ! " 

To my great amazement Ni was not at all 
affected by this demonstration. He leaned 
smilingly against the barrel, and picked out 
another apple — a spitzenberg this time. 

" Now look a-here, Abner," he said, argu- 
mentatively, " what's the good o' gittin' mad? 
When I've had my say out, why, if you don't 
like it you needn't, an' nobody's a cent the 
wuss off. Of course, if you come down to 
hard-pan, it ain't none o' my business — " 

" No," interjected Abner, in grim assent, 
" it ain't none o' your business ! " 



NFS TALK WITH ABNEE 85 

"But there is such a thing as being 
neighborly," Ni went on, undismayed, "an' 
meanin' things kindly, an' takin' 'em as 
they're meant." 

"Yes, I know them kindly neighbors o' 
mine ! " broke in the farmer with acrid irony, 
" I've summered 'em an' I've wintered 'em, 
an' the Lord deliver me from the whole 
caboodle of 'em ! A meaner lot o' cusses 
never cumbered this foot-stool ! " 

"It takes all sorts o' people to make 
up a world," commented this freckled and 
sandy-headed young philosopher, testing the 
crimson skin of his apple with a tentative 
thumb-nail. "Now you ain't got anything 
in particular agin me, have you ? " 

"Nothin' except your breed," the farmer 
admitted. The frown with which he had 
been regarding Ni had softened just the least 
bit in the world. 

" That don't count," said Ni, with easy con- 
fidence. " Why, what does breed amount to, 
anyway? You ought to be the last man 
alive to lug that in — you, who've up an' 
soured on your own breed — your own son 
Jeff ! " 

I looked to see Abner lift his fork again, 



86 THE COPPERHEAD 

and perhaps go even further in his rage. 
Strangely enough, there crept into his sun- 
burnt, massive face, at the corners of the eyes 
and mouth, something like the beginnings of 
a puzzled smile. " You're a cheeky little 
cuss, anyway ! " was his final comment. Then 
his expression hardened again. "Who put 
you up to comin' here, an' talkin' like this to 
me?" he demanded, sternly. 

" Nobody — hope to die ! " protested Ni. 
" It's all my own spec. It riled me to see 
you mopin' round up here all alone by your- 
self, not knowin' what'd become of Jeff, an' 
makin' b'lieve to yourself you didn't care, an' 
so givin' yourself away to the whole neigh- 
borhood." 

" Damn the neighborhood ! " said Abner, 
fervently. 

" Well, they talk about the same of you," 
Ni proceeded with an air of impartial candor. 
" But all that don't do you no good, an' don't 
do Jeff no good ! " 

" He made his own bed, and he must 
lay on it," said the farmer, with dogged 
firmness. 

" I ain't sayin' he mustn't," remonstrated 
the other. " What I'm gittin' at is that you'd 



NI'S TALK WITH ABNER 87 

feel easier in your mind if you knew where 
that bed was — an' so'd M'rye ! " 

Abner lifted his head. " His mother feels 
jest as I do," he said. " He sneaked off 
behind our backs to jine Lincoln's nigger- 
worshippers, an' levy war on fellow-country- 
men o' his'n who'd done him no harm, an' 
whatever happens to him it serves him right. 
I ain't much of a hand to lug in Scripter to 
back up my argyments — like some folks you 
know of — but my feelin' is : ' Whoso taketh 
up the sword shall perish by the sword ! ' 
An' so says his mother too ! " 

" Hm-m ! " grunted Ni, with ostentatious 
incredulity. He bit into his apple, and there 
ensued a momentary silence. Then, as soon 
as he was able to speak, this astonishing boy 
said : " Guess I'll have a talk with M'rye 
about that herself." 

The farmer's patience was running emp- 
tings. " No ! " he said, severely, " I forbid 
ye ! Don't ye dare say a word to her about 
it. She don't want to listen to ye — an' I 
don't know what's possessed me to stand round 
an' gab about my private affairs with you like 
this, either. I don't bear ye no ill-will. If 
fathers can't help the kind o' sons they bring 



88 THE COPPERHEAD 

up, why, still less can ye blame sons on ac- 
count o' their fathers. But it ain't a thing I 
want to talk about any more, either now or 
any other time. That's all." 

Abner put the fork over his shoulder, as a 
sign that he was going, and that the interview 
was at an end. But the persistent Ni had a 
last word to offer — and he left his barrel 
and walked over to the farmer. 

" See here," he said, in more urgent tones 
than he had used before, " I'm goin' South, 
an' I'm goin' to find Jeff if it takes a leg ! I 
don't know how much it'll cost — I've got a 
little of my own saved up — an' I thought 
p'r'aps — p'r'aps you'd like to — " 

After a moment's thought the farmer shook 
his head. "No," he said, gravely, almost 
reluctantly. " It's agin my principles. You 
know me — Ni — you know I've never b'en a 
near man, let alone a mean man. An' ye 
know, too, that if Je — if that boy had be- 
haved half-way decent, there ain't anything 
under the sun I wouldn't 'a' done for him. 
But this thing — I'm obleeged to ye for offrin 
— but — No! it's agin my principles. Still, 
I'm obleeged to ye. Fill your pockets with 
them spitzenbergs, if they taste good to ye." 



NI'S TALK WITH ABNEB 89 

With this Abner Beech turned and walked 
resolutely off. 

Left alone with me, Ni threw away the 
half -eaten apple he had held in his hand. "I 
don't want any of his dummed old spitzen- 
bergs," he said, pushing his foot into the heap 
of fruit on the ground, in a meditative way. 

"Then you ain't agoin' South?" I que- 
ried. 

" Yes I am ! " he replied, with decision. 
" I can work my way somehow. Only don't 
you whisper a word about it to any livin' 
soul, d'ye mind ! " 

Two or three days after that we heard that 
Ni Hagadorn had left for unknown parts. 
Some said he had gone to enlist — it seems 
that, despite his youth and small stature in 
my eyes, he would have been acceptable to 
the enlistment standards of the day — but 
the major opinion was that much dime-novel 
reading had inspired him with the notion of 
becoming a trapper in the mystic Far West. 

I alone possessed the secret of his disappear- 
ance — unless, indeed, his sister knew — and 
no one will ever know what struggles I had 
to keep from confiding it to Hurley. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE ELECTION 

Soon the fine weather was at an end. One 
day it was soft and warm, with a tender bine 
haze over the distant woods and a sun like 
a blood-orange in the tranquil sky, and birds 
twittering about among the elders and sumac 
along the rail fences. And the next day 
everything was gray and lifeless and desolate, 
with fierce winds sweeping over the bare 
fields, and driving the cold rain in sheets 
before them. 

Some people — among them Hurley — said 
it was the equinoctial that was upon us. Ab- 
ner Beech ridiculed this, and proved by the 
dictionary that the equinoctial meant Sep- 
tember 22d, whereas it was now well-nigh 
the end of October. The Irishman con- 
ceded that in books this might be so, but 
stuck wilfully to it that in practice the equi- 
noctial came just before winter set in. After 
so long a period of saddened silence brooding 

over our household, it was quite a relief to 
90 



THE ELECTION 91 

hear the men argue this question of the 
weather. 

Down at the Corners old farmers had 
wrangled over the identity of the equinoctial 
ever since I could remember. It was pretty 
generally agreed that each year along some 
time during the fall, there came a storm which 
was properly entitled to that name, but at this 
point harmony ended. Some insisted that it 
came before Indian Summer, some that it fol- 
lowed that season, and this was further com- 
plicated by the fact that no one was ever 
quite sure when it was Indian Summer. 
There were all sorts of rules for recognizing 
this delectable time of year, rules connected, 
I recall, with the opening of the chestnut 
burrs, the movement of birds, and various 
other incidents in nature's great processional, 
but these rules rarely came right in our rough 
latitude, and sometimes never came at all — 
at least did not bring with them anything re- 
motely resembling Indian Summer, but made 
our autumn one prolonged and miserable suc- 
cession of storms. And then it was an espe- 
cially trying trick to pick out the equinoctial 
from the lot — and even harder still to prove 
to sceptical neighbors that you were right. 



92 THE COPPERHEAD 

Whatever this particular storm may have 
been it came too soon. Being so short-handed 
on the farm, we were much behind in the 
matter of drawing our produce to market. 
And now, after the first day or two of rain, 
the roads were things to shudder at. It was 
not so bad getting to and from the Corners, 
for Agrippa Hill had a gravel formation, but 
beyond the Corners, whichever way one went 
over the bottom lands of the Nedahma Valley, 
it was a matter of lashing the panting teams 
through seas of mud punctuated by abyssmal 
pitch-holes, into which the wheels slumped 
over their hubs, and quite generally stuck till 
they were pried out with fence-rails. 

Abner Beech was exceptionally tender in 
his treatment of live-stock. The only occa- 
sion I ever heard of on which he was tempted 
into using his big fists upon a fellow-creature, 
was once, long before my time, when one of 
his hired men struck a refractory cow over its 
haunches with a shovel. He knocked this 
man clear through the stanchions. Often Jeff 
and I used to feel that he carried his solici- 
tude for horse-flesh too far — particularly 
when we wanted to drive down to the creek 
for a summer evening swim, and he thought 
the teams were too tired. 



THE ELECTION 93 

So now he would not let us hitch up and 
drive into Octavius with even the lightest 
loads, on account of the horses. It would be 
better to wait, he said, until there was sled- 
ding ; then we could slip in in no time. He 
pretended that all the signs this year pointed 
to an early winter. 

The result was that we were more than 
ever shut off from news of the outer world. 
The weekly paper which came to us was 
full, I remember, of political arguments and 
speeches — for a Congress and Governor were 
to be elected a few weeks hence — but there 
were next to no tidings from the front. The 
war, in fact, seemed to have almost stopped 
altogether, and this paper spoke of it as a 
confessed failure. Farmer Beech and Hur- 
ley, of course, took the same view, and their 
remarks quite prepared me from day to day 
to hear that peace had been concluded. 

But down at the Corners a strikingly dif- 
ferent spirit reigned. It quite surprised me, 
I know, when I went down on occasion for 
odds and ends of grocerieswhich the bad roads 
prevented us from getting in town, to dis- 
cover that the talk there was all in favor of 
having a great deal more war than ever. 



94 THE COPPERHEAD 

This store at the Corners was also the post- 
office, and, more important still, it served as 
a general rallying place for the men-folks of 
the neighborhood after supper. Lee Wat- 
kins, who kept it, would rather have missed 
a meal of victuals any day than not to have 
had the " boys " come in of an evening, and 
sit or lounge around discussing the situation. 
Many of them were very old boys now, garru- 
lous seniors who remembered " Matty " Van 
Buren, as they called him, and told weird 
stories of the Anti-Masonry days. These had 
the well-worn arm-chairs nearest the stove, in 
cold weather, and spat tobacco-juice on its 
hottest parts with a precision born of long- 
time experience. The younger fellows ac- 
commodated themselves about the outer cir- 
cle, squatting on boxes, or with one leg over 
a barrel, sampling the sugar and crackers and 
raisins in an absent-minded way each even- 
ing, till Mrs. Watkins came out and put the 
covers on. She was a stout, peevish woman 
in bloomers, and they said that her husband, 
Lee, couldn't have run the post-office for 
twenty-four hours if it hadn't been for her. 
We understood that she was a Woman's 
Rights' woman, which some held was much the 



THE ELECTION 95 

same as believing in Free Love. All that was 
certain, however, was that she did not believe 
in free lunches out of her husband's barrels 
and cases. 

The chief flaw in this village parliament 
was the absence of an opposition. Among 
all the accustomed assemblage of men who 
sat about, their hats well back on their heads, 
their mouths full of strong language and to- 
bacco, there was none to disagree upon any 
essential feature of the situation with the 
others. To secure even the merest semblance 
of variety, those whose instincts were cross- 
grained had to go out of their way to pick up 
trifling points of difference, and the argu- 
ments over these had to be spun out with the 
greatest possible care, to be kept going at all. 
I should fancy, however, that this apparent 
concord only served to keep before their 
minds, with added persistency, the fact that 
there was an opposition, nursing its heretical 
wrath in solitude up on the Beech farm. At 
all events, I seemed never to go into the gro- 
cery of a night without hearing bitter re- 
marks, or even curses, levelled at our house- 
hold. 

It was from these casual visits — standing 



96 THE COPPERHEAD 

about on the outskirts of the gathering, be- 
yond the feeble ring of light thrown out by 
the kerosene lamp on the counter — that I 
learned how deeply the Corners were opposed 
to peace. It appeared from the talk here 
that there was something very like treason at 
the front. The victory at Antietam — so 
dearly bought with the blood of our own peo- 
ple — had been, they said, of worse than no 
use at all. The defeated Rebels had been al- 
lowed to take their own time in crossing the 
Potomac comfortably. They had not been 
pursued or molested since, and the Corners 
could only account for this on the theory of 
treachery at Union headquarters. Some only 
hinted guardedly at this. Others declared 
openly that the North was being sold out by 
its own generals. As for old " Jee " Haga- 
dorn, who came in almost every night, and 
monopolized the talking all the while he was 
present, he made no bones of denouncing Mc- 
Clellan and Porter as traitors who must be 
hanged. 

He comes before me as I write — his thin 
form quivering with excitement, the red stub- 
bly hair standing up all round his drawn and 
livid face, his knuckles rapping out one fierce 



THE ELECTION 97 

point after another on the candle-box, as he 
filled the hot little room with angry declama- 
tion. "Go it Jee!" "Give 'em Hell!" 
" Hangin's too good for 'em ! " his auditors 
used to exclaim in encouragement, whenever 
he paused for breath, and then he would start 
off again still more furiously, till he had to 
gasp after every word, and screamed " Lin- 
coln-ah ! " " Lee-ah ! " " Antietam-ah ! " and 
so on, into our perturbed ears. Then I would 
go home, recalling how he had formerly 
shouted about " Adam-ah ! " and " Eve-ah ! " 
in church, and marvelling that he had never 
worked himself into a fit, or broken a blood- 
vessel. 

So between what Abner and Hurley said 
on the farm, and what was proclaimed at the 
Corners, it was pretty hard to figure out 
whether the war was going to stop, or go on 
much worse than ever. 

Things were still in this doubtful state, 
when election Tuesday came round. I had 
not known or thought about it, until, at the 
breakfast-table Abner said that he guessed 
he and Hurley would go down and vote 
before dinner. He had some days before 
secured a package of ballots from the organi- 



98 THE COPPEBHEAD 

zation of his party at Octavius, and these he 
now took from one of the bookcase drawers, 
and divided between himself and Hurley. 

" They won't be much use, I dessay, 
peddlin' 'em at the polls," he said, with a 
grim momentary smile, " but, by the Eternal, 
we'll vote 'em ! " 

"As many of 'em as they'll be allowin' 
us," added Hurley, in chuckling qualifica- 
tion. 

They were very pretty tickets in those 
days, with marbled and plaided backs in 
brilliant colors, and spreading eagles in front, 
over the printed captions. In other years I 
had shared with the urchins of the neighbor- 
hood the excitement of scrambling for a 
share of these ballots, after they had been 
counted, and tossed out of the boxes. The 
conditions did not seem to be favorable for a 
repetition of that this year, and apparently 
this occurred to Abner, for of his own accord 
he handed me over some dozen of the little 
packets, each tied with a thread, and labelled, 
" State," " Congressional," " Judiciary," and 
the like. He, moreover, consented — the 
morning chores being out of the way — that 
I should accompany them to the Corners. 



THE ELECTION 99 

The ground had frozen stiff overnight, and 
the road lay in hard uncompromising ridges 
between the tracks of yesterday's wheels. 
The two men swung along down the hill 
ahead of me, with resolute strides and their 
heads proudly thrown back, as if they had 
been going into battle. I shuffled on behind 
in my new boots, also much excited. The 
day was cold and raw. 

The polls were fixed up in a little building 
next to the post-office — a one-story frame 
structure where Lee Watkins kept his bob- 
sleigh and oil barrels, as a rule. These had 
been cleared out into the yard, and a table 
and some chairs put in in their place. A 
pane of glass had been taken out of the 
window. Through this aperture the voters, 
each in his turn, passed their ballots, to be 
placed by the inspectors in the several boxes 
ranged along the window-sill inside. A 
dozen or more men, mainly in army overcoats, 
stood about on the sidewalk or in the road 
outside, stamping their feet for warmth, and 
slapping their shoulders with their hands, 
between the fingers of which they held little 
packets of tickets like mine — that is to say, 
they were like mine in form and brilliancy of 



100 TUE COPPERHEAD 

color, but I knew well enough that there the 
resemblance ended abruptly. A yard or so 
from the window two posts had been driven 
into the ground, with a board nailed across 
to prevent undue crowding. 

Abner and Hurley marched up to the polls 
without a word to anyone, or any sign of 
recognition from the bystanders. Their 
appearance, however, visibly awakened the 
interest of the Corners, and several young 
fellows who were standing on the grocery 
steps sauntered over in their wake to see 
what was going on. These, with the ticket- 
peddlers, crowded up close to the window 
now, behind our two men. 

" Abner Beech ! " called the farmer through 
the open pane, in a defiant voice. Standing 
on tiptoe, I could just see the heads of some 
men inside, apparently looking through the 
election books. No questions were asked, 
and in a minute or so Abner had voted and 
stood aside a little, to make room for his 
companion. 

" Timothy Joseph Hurley ! " shouted our 
hired man, standing on his toes to make 
himself taller, and squaring his weazened 
shoulders. 



THE ELECTION 101 

" Got your naturalization papers ? " came 
out a sharp, gruff inquiry through the win- 
dow-sash. 

" That I have ! " said the Irishman, wagging 
his head in satisfaction at having foreseen 
this trick, and winking blandly into the wall 
of stolid, hostile faces encircling him. " That 
I have ! " 

He drew forth an old and crumpled en- 
velope, from his breast-pocket, and extracted 
some papers from its ragged folds which he 
passed through to the inspector. The latter 
just cast his eye over the documents and handed 
them back. 

" Them ain't no good ! " he said, curtly. 

" What's that you're saying ? " cried the 
Irishman. " Sure I've voted on thim same 
papers every year since 1856, an' niver a man 
gainsaid me. No good, is it? Huh!" 

" Why ain't they no good ? " boomed in 
Abner Beech's deep, angry voice. He had 
moved back to the window. 

" Because they ain't, that's enough ! " re- 
turned the inspector. " Don't block up the 
window, there ! Others want to vote ! " 

" I'll have the law on yez ! " shouted Hurley. 
" I'll swear me vote in ! I'll — I'll — " 



102 THE COPPERHEAD 

" Aw, shut up, you Mick ! " someone called 
out close by, and then there rose another voice 
farther back in the group : " Don't let him 
vote ! One Copperhead's enough in Agrippa ! " 

" I'll have the law — " I heard Hurley be- 
gin again, at the top of his voice, and Abner 
roared out something I could not catch. 
Then as in a flash the whole cluster of men 
became one confused whirling tangle of arms 
and legs, sprawling and wrestling on the 
ground, and from it rising the repellant sound 
of blows upon flesh, and a discordant chorus 
of grunts and curses. Big chunks of icy mud 
flew through the air, kicked up by the boots 
of the men as they struggled. I saw the two 
posts with the board weave under the strain, 
then give way, some of the embattled group 
tumbling over them as they fell. It was 
wholly impossible to guess who was who in 
this writhing and tossing mass of fighters. 
I danced up and down in a frenzy of excite- 
ment, watching this wild spectacle, and, so I 
was told years afterward, screaming with all 
my might and main. 

Then all at once there was a mighty up- 
heaval, and a big man half-scrambled, half- 
hurled himself to his feet. It was Abner, 



THE ELECTION 103 

who had wrenched one of the posts bodily 
from under the others, and swung it now 
high in air. Some one clutched it, and for 
the moment stayed its descent, yelling, mean- 
while, " Look out ! Look out ! " as though 
life itself depended on the volume of his 
voice. 

The ground cleared itself as if by magic. 
On the instant there was only Abner standing 
there with the post in his hands, and little 
Hurley beside him, the lower part of his face 
covered with blood, and his coat torn half 
from his back. The others had drawn off, 
and formed a semicircle just out of reach of 
the stake, like farm-dogs round a wounded 
bear at bay. Two or three of them had blood 
about their heads and necks. 

There were cries of " Kill him ! " and it 
was said afterward that Roselle Upman drew 
a pistol, but if he did others dissuaded him 
from using it. Abner stood with his back to 
the building, breathing hard, and a good deal 
covered with mud, but eyeing the crowd with 
a masterful ferocity, and from time to time 
shifting his hands to get a new grip on that 
tremendous weapon of his. He said not a 
word. 



104 THE COPPERHEAD 

The Irishman, after a moment's hesitation, 
wiped some of the blood from his mouth 
and jaw, and turned to the window again. 
" Timothy Joseph Hurley ! " he shouted in, 
defiantly. 

This time another inspector came to the 
front — the owner of the tanyard over on the 
Dutch road, and a man of importance in 
the district. Evidently there had been a 
discussion inside. 

" We will take your vote if you want to 
swear it in," he said, in a pacific tone, and 
though there were some dissenting cries 
from the crowd without, he read the oath, 
and Hurley mumbled it after him. 

Then, with some difficulty, he sorted out 
from his pocket some torn and mud-stained 
packets of tickets, picked the cleanest out 
from each, and voted them — all with a fine 
air of unconcern. 

Abner Beech marched out behind him now 
with a resolute clutch on the stake. The 
crowd made reluctant way for them, not 
without a good many truculent remarks, but 
with no offer of actual violence. Some of 
the more boisterous ones, led by Roselle Up- 
man, were for following them, and renewing 



THE ELECTION 105 

the encounter beyond the Corners. But this, 
too, came to nothing, and when I at last 
ventured to cross the road and join Abner 
and Hurley, even the cries of " Copperhead " 
had died away. 

The sun had come out, and the frosty ruts 
had softened to stickiness. The men's heavy 
boots picked up whole sections of plastic 
earth as they walked in the middle of the 
road up the hill. 

"What's the matter with your mouth?" 
asked Abner at last, casting a sidelong glance 
at his companion. "It's be'n a-bleedin'." 

Hurley passed an investigating hand care- 
fully over the lower part of his face, looked 
at his reddened fingers, and laughed aloud. 

" I'd a fine grand bite at the ear of one of 
them," he said, in explanation. "'Tis no 
blood o' mine." 

Abner knitted his brows. " That ain't the 
way Ave fight in this country," he said, in 
tones of displeasure. " Bitin' men's ears 
ain't no civilized way of behavin'." 

" Twas not much of a day for civilization," 
remarked Hurley, lightly ; and there was no 
further conversation on our homeward tramp. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE ELECTION BONFIRE 

The election had been on Tuesday, Novem- 
ber 4th. Our paper, containing the news of 
the result, was to be expected at the Corners 
on Friday morning. But long before that 
date we had learned — I think it was Hurley 
who found it out — that the Abolitionists 
had actually been beaten in our Congressional 
district. It was so amazing a thing that 
Abner could scarcely credit it, but it was 
apparently beyond dispute. For that matter, 
one hardly needed further evidence than the 
dejected way in which Philo Andrews and 
Myron Pierce and other followers of " Jee " 
Hagadorn hung their heads as they drove 
past our place. 

Of course it had all been done by the vote 
in the big town of Tecumseh, way at the 
other end of the district, and by those towns 
surrounding it where the Mohawk Dutch 
were still very numerous. But this did not 
106 



THE ELECTION BONFIRE 107 

at all lessen the exhilaration with which the 
discovery that the Radicals of our own Dear- 
born County had been snowed under, filled 
our breasts. Was it not wonderful to think 
of, that these heroes of remote Adams and 
Jay Counties should have been at work re- 
deeming the district on the very day when 
the two votes of our farm marked the almost 
despairing low-water mark of the cause in 
Agrippa ? 

Abner could hardly keep his feet down on 
the ground or floor when he walked, so power- 
fully did the tidings of this achievement 
thrill his veins. He said the springs of his 
knees kept jerking upward, so that he wanted 
to kick and dance all the while. Janey Wil- 
cox, who, though a meek and silent girl, was 
a wildly bitter partisan, was all eagerness to 
light a bonfire out on the knoll in front of 
the house Thursday night, so that every 
mother's son of them down at the Corners 
might see it, but Abner thought it would be 
better to wait until we had the printed facts 
before us. 

I could hardly wait to finish breakfast Fri- 
day morning, so great was my zeal to be off 
to the post-office. It was indeed not alto- 



108 THE COPPERHEAD 

gether daylight when I started at quick step 
down the hill. Yet, early as I was, there 
were some twenty people inside Lee Watkins's 
store when I arrived, all standing clustered 
about the high square row of glass-faced pig- 
eon-holes reared on the farther end of the 
counter, behind which could be seen Lee and 
his sour-faced wife sorting over the mail by 
lamp-light. " Jee " Hagadorn was in this 
group and Squire Avery, and most of the 
other prominent citizens of the neighborhood. 
All were deeply restless. 

Every minute or two some one of them 
would shout : " Come, Lee, give us out one 
of the papers, anyway ! " But for some 
reason Mrs. Watkins was inexorable. Her 
pursed-up lips and resolute expression told 
us plainly that none would be served till 
all were sorted. So the impatient waiters 
bided their time under protest, exchanging 
splenetic remarks under their breath. We 
must have stood there three-quarters of an 
hour. 

At last Mrs. Watkins wiped her hands on 
the apron over her bloomers. Everybody 
knew the signal, and on the instant a dozen 
arms were stretched vehemently toward Lee, 



THE ELECTION BONFIRE 109 

struggling for precedence. In another mo- 
ment wrappers had been ripped off and sheets 
flung open. Then the store was alive with 
excited voices. " Yes, sir ! It's true ! The 
Copperheads have won ! " " Tribune con- 
cedes Seymour's election ! " " We're beaten 
in the district by less'n a hundred ! " " Good- 
by, human liberty ! " " Now we know how 
Lazarus felt when he was licked by the 
dogs ! " and so on — a stormy warfare of 
wrathful ejaculations. 

In my turn I crowded up, and held out my 
hand for the paper I saw in the box. Lee 
Watkins recognized me, and took the paper 
out to deliver to me. But at the same mo- 
ment his wife, who had been hastily scanning 
the columns of some other journal, looked up 
and also saw who I was. With a lightning 
gesture she threw out her hand, snatched our 
World from her husband's grasp, and threw 
it spitefully under the counter. 

" There ain't nothing for you! " she snapped 
at me. " Pesky Copperhead rag ! " she mut- 
tered to herself. 

Although I had plainly seen the familiar 
wrapper, and understood her action well 
enough, it never occurred to me to argue 



110 THE COPPERHEAD 

the question with Mrs. Watkins. Her bust- 
ling, determined demeanor, perhaps also her 
bloomers, had always filled me with awe. I 
hung about for a time, avoiding her range of 
vision, until she went out into her kitchen. 
Then I spoke with resolution to Lee: 

" If you don't give me. that paper," I said, 
" I'll tell Abner, an' he'll make you sweat for 
it!" 

The postmaster stole a cautious glance 
kitchenward. Then he made a swift, diving 
movement under the counter, and furtively 
thrust the paper out at me. 

" Scoot ! " he said, briefly, and I obeyed 
him. 

Abner was simply wild with bewildered 
delight over what this paper had to tell him. 
Even my narrative about Mrs. Watkins, 
which ordinarily would have thrown him 
into transports of rage, provoked only a pass- 
ing sniff. " They've only got two more 
years to hold that post-office," was his only 
remark upon it. 

Hurley and Janey Wilcox and even the 
Underwood girl came in, and listened to 
Abner reading out the news. He shirked 
nothing, but waded manfully through long 



THE ELECTION BON FIB E 111 

tables of figures and meaningless catalogues 
of counties in other States, the names of 
which he scarcely knew how to pronounce : 
" ' Five-hundred and thirty-one townships in 
Wisconsin give Brown 21,409, Smith 16,329, 
Ferguson 802, a Republican loss of 26.' Do 
you see that, Hurley? It's everywhere the 
same." " ' Kalapoosas County elects Repub- 
lican Sheriff for first time in history of party.' 
That isn't so good, but its only one out of 
ten thousand." " ' Four-hundred-and-six town- 
ships in New Hampshire show a net Demo- 
cratic loss of — ' pshaw ! there ain't nothing 
in that ! Wait till the other towns are heard 
from ! " 

So Abner read on and on, slapping his 
thigh with his free hand whenever anything 
specially good turned up. And there was a 
great deal that we felt to be good. The 
State had been carried. Besides our Con- 
gressman, many others had been elected in 
unlooked-for places — so much so that the 
paper held out the hope that Congress itself 
might be ours. Of course Abner at once 
talked as if it were already ours. Resting 
between paragraphs, he told Hurley and the 
others that this settled it. The war must 



112 THE COPPERHEAD 

now surely be abandoned, and the seceding 
States invited to return to the Union on 
terms honorable to both sides. 

Hurley had assented with acquiescent nods 
to everything else. He seemed to have a 
reservation on this last point. " An' what if 
they won't come ? " he asked. 

" Let 'em stay out, then," replied Abner, 
dogmatically. "This war — this wicked 
war between brothers — must stop. That's 
the meaning of Tuesday's votes. What did 
you and I go down to the Corners and cast 
our ballots for ? — why, for peace ! " 

" Well, somebody else got my share of it, 
then," remarked Hurley, with a rueful 
chuckle. 

Abner was too intent upon his theme to 
notice. " Yes, peace ! " he repeated, in the 
deep vibrating tones of his class-meeting 
manner. " Why, just think what's been 
a-goin' on ! Great armies raised, hundreds 
of thousands of honest men taken from their 
work an' set to murderin' each other, whole 
deestricks of country torn up by the roots, 
homes desolated, the land filled with widows 
an' orphans, an' every house a house of 



THE ELECTION BONFIBE 113 

Mrs. Beech had been sitting, with her 
mending-basket on her knee, listening to her 
husband like the rest of us. She shot to her 
feet now as these last words of his quivered 
in the air, paying no heed to the basket or its 
scattered contents on the floor, but putting 
her apron to her eyes, and making her way 
thus past us, half-blindly, into her bedroom. 
I thought I heard the sound of a sob as she 
closed the door. 

That the stately, proud, self-contained 
mistress of our household should act like this 
before us all was even more surprising than 
Seymour's election. We stared at one an- 
other in silent astonishment. 

" M'rye ain't feelin' over 'n' above well," 
Abner said at last, apologetically. "You 
girls ought to spare her all you kin." 

One could see, however, that he was as 
puzzled as the rest of us. He rose to his feet, 
walked over to the stove, rubbed his boot 
meditatively against the hearth for a minute 
or two, then came back again to the table. 
It was with a visible effort that he finally 
shook off this mood, and forced a smile to his 
lips. 

" Well, Janey," he said, with an effort at 



114 THE COPPERHEAD 

briskness, "ye kin go ahead with your bon- 
fire, now. I guess I've got some old bar'ls 
for ye over 'n' the cow-barn." 

But having said this, he turned abruptly 
and followed his wife into the little chamber 
off the living-room. 



CHAPTER IX 



ESTHER S VISIT 



The next day, Saturday, was my birthday. 
I celebrated it by a heavy cold, with a burst- 
ing headache and chills chasing each other 
down my back. I went out to the cow-barn 
with the two men before daylight, as usual, 
but felt so bad that I had to come back to 
the house before milking was half over. 
The moment M'rye saw me, I was ordered 
on to the sick-list. 

The Beech homestead was a good place to 
be sick in. Both M'rye and Janey had a 
talent in the way of fixing up tasty little 
dishes for invalids, and otherwise ministering 
to their comfort, which year after year went 
a-begging, simply because all the men-folk 
kept so well. Therefore, when the rare 
opportunity did arrive, they made the most 
of it. I had my feet and legs put into a 
bucket of hot water, and wrapped round with 
burdock leaves. Janey prepared for my 
115 



116 THE COPPERHEAD 

breakfast some soft toast — not the insipid 
and common milk-toast — but each golden- 
brown slice treated separately on a plate, 
first moistened with scalding water, then 
peppered, salted, and buttered, with a little 
cold milk on top of all. I ate this sumptuous 
breakfast at my leisure, ensconced in M'rye's 
big cushioned rocking-chair, with my feet 
and legs, well tucked up in a blanket-shawl, 
stretched out on another chair, comfortably 
near the stove. 

It was taken for granted that I had caught 
my cold out around the bonfire the previous 
evening — and this conviction threw a sort of 
patriotic glamour about my illness, at least 
in my own mind. 

The bonfire had been a famous success. 
Though there was a trifle of rain in the air, 
the barrels and mossy discarded old fence- 
rails burned like pitch-pine, and when Hur- 
ley and I threw on armfuls of brush, the 
sparks burst up with a roar into a flaming 
column which we felt must be visible all over 
our side of Dearborn County. At all events, 
there was no doubt about its being seen and 
understood down at the Corners, for pres- 
ently our enemies there started an answering 



ESTHER'S VISIT 117 

bonfire, which glowed from time to time with 
such a peculiarly concentrated radiance that 
Aimer said Lee Watkins must have given 
them some of his kerosene-oil barrels. The 
thought of such a sacrifice as this on the part 
of the postmaster rather disturbed Abner's 
mind, raising, as it did, the hideous sugges- 
tion that possibly later returns might have 
altered the election results. But when 
Hurley and I dragged forward and tipped 
over into the blaze the whole side of an old 
abandoned corn-crib, and heaped dry brush 
on top of that, till the very sky seemed afire 
above us, and the stubble-fields down the 
hill-side were all ruddy in the light, Abner 
confessed himself reassured. Our enthu- 
siasm was so great that it was nearly ten 
o'clock before we went to bed, having first 
put the fire pretty well out, lest a rising 
wind during the night should scatter sparks 
and work mischief. 

I had all these splendid things to think of 
next day, along with my headache and the 
shivering spine, and they tipped the balance 
toward satisfaction. Shortly after breakfast 
M'rye made a flaxseed poultice and muffled 
it flabbily about my neck, and brought me 



118 THE COPPERHEAD 

also some boueset-tea to drink. There was a 
debate in the air as between castor-oil and 
senna, fragments of which were borne in to 
me when the kitchen door was open. The 
Underwood girl alarmed me by steadily in- 
sisting that her sister-in-law always broke up 
sick-headaches with a mustard-plaster put raw 
on the back of the neck. Every once in a 
while one of them would come in and ad- 
dress to me the stereotyped formula : " Feel 
\ny better ? " and I as invariably answered, 
' No." In reality, though, I was lazily com- 
fortable all the time, with Lossing's " Field- 
Book of the War of 1812 " lying open on my 
lap, to look at when I felt inclined. This 
book was not nearly so interesting as the one 
about the Revolution, but a grandfather of 
mine had marched as a soldier up to Sack- 
ett's Harbor in the later war, though he did 
not seem to have had any fighting to do after 
he got there, and in my serious moods I 
always felt it my duty to read about his war 
instead of the other. 

So the day passed along, and dusk began 
to gather in the living-room. The men were 
off outdoors somewhere, and the girls were 
churning in the butter-room. M'rye had 



ESTHER'S VISIT 119 

come in with her mending,, and sat on the 
opposite side of the stove, at intervals cast- 
ing glances over its flat top to satisfy her- 
self that my poultice had not sagged down 
from its proper place, and that I was in 
other respects doing as well as could be ex- 
pected. 

Conversation between us was hardly to be 
thought of, even if I had not been so drowsily 
indolent. M'rye was not a talker, and pre- 
ferred always to sit in silence, listening to 
others, or, better still, going on at her work 
with no sounds at all to disturb her thoughts. 
These long periods of meditation, and the 
sedate gaze of her black, penetrating eyes, 
gave me the feeling that she must be much 
wiser than other women, who could not keep 
still at all, but gabbled everything the mo- 
ment it came into their heads. 

We had sat thus for a long, long time, 
until I began to wonder how she could sew 
in the waning light, when all at once, with- 
out lifting her eyes from her work, she spoke 
to me. 

" D' you know where Ni Hagadorn's gone 
to?" she asked me, in a measured, impres- 
sive voice. 



120 THE COPPERHEAD 

" He — he — told me he was a-goin' away," 
I made answer, with weak evasiveness. 

"But where? Down South?" She looked 
up, as I hesitated, and flashed that darkling 
glance of hers at me. " Out with it ! " she 
commanded. " Tell me the truth ! " 

Thus adjured, I promptly admitted that Ni 
had said he was going South, and could work 
his way somehow. " He's gone, you know," 
I added, after a pause, " to try and find — 
that is, to hunt around after — " 

" Yes, I know," said M'rye, sententiously, 
and another long silence ensued. 

She rose after a time, and went out into 
the kitchen, returning with the lighted lamp. 
She set this on the table, putting the shade 
down on one side so that the light should 
not hurt my eyes, and resumed her mending. 
The yellow glow thus falling upon her gave 
to her dark, severe, high-featured face a 
duskier effect than ever. It occurred to me 
that Molly Brant, that mysteriously fascinat- 
ing and bloody Mohawk queen who left such 
an awful reddened mark upon the history of 
her native Valley, must have been like our 
M'rye. My mind began sleepily to clothe 
the farmer's wife in blankets and chains of 



ESTHER'S VISIT 121 

wampum, with eagles' feathers in her raven 
hair, and then to drift vaguely off over the 
threshold of Indian dreamland, when sud- 
denly, with a start, I became conscious that 
some unexpected person had entered the 
room by the veranda-door behind me. 

The rush of cold air from without had 
awakened me and told me of the entrance. 
A glance at M'rye's face revealed the rest. 
She was staring at the newcomer with a 
dumfounded expression of countenance, her 
mouth half-open with sheer surprise. Still 
staring, she rose and tilted the lamp-shade in 
yet another direction, so that the light was 
thrown upon the stranger. At this I turned 
in my chair to look. 

It was Esther Hagadorn who had come in ! 

There was a moment's awkward silence, 
and then the school-teacher began hurriedly 
to speak. " I saw you were alone from the 
veranda — I was so nervous, it never occurred 
to me to rap — the curtains being up — I — I 
walked straight in." 

As if in comment upon this statement, 
M'rye marched across the room, and pulled 
down both curtains over the veranda win- 
dows. With her hand still upon the cord 



122 THE COPPERHEAD 

of the second shade, she turned and again 
dumbly surveyed her visitor. 

Esther flushed visibly at this reception, 
and had to choke down the first words that 
came to her lips. Then she went on better : 
" I hope you'll excuse my rudeness. I really 
did forget to rap. I came upon very special 
business. Is Ab — Mr. Beech at home ? " 

"Won't you sit down?" said M'rye, with 
a glum effort at civility. " I expect him in 
presently." 

The school-ma'am, displaying some diffi- 
dence, seated herself in the nearest chair, 
and gazed at the wall-paper with intentness. 
She had never seemed to notice me at all — 
indeed had spoken of seeing M'rye alone 
through the window — and I now coughed, 
and stirred to readjust my poultice, but she 
did not look my way. M'rye had gone back 
to her chair by the stove, and taken up her 
mending again. 

" You'd better lay off your things. You 
won't feel 'em when you go out," she re- 
marked, after an embarrassing period of 
silence, investing the formal phrases with 
chilling intention. 

Esther made a fumbling motion at the loop 



ESTHER'S VISIT 123 

of her big mink cape, but did not unfasten it. 

"I — I don't know what you think of me," 
she began, at last, and then nervously halted. 

" Mebbe it's just as well you don't," said 
M'rye, significantly, darning away with long 
sweeps of her arm, and bending attentively 
over her stocking and ball. 

" I can understand your feeling hard," 
Esther went on, still eying the sprawling 
blue figures on the wall, and plucking with 
her fingers at the furry tails on her cape. 
"And — I am to blame, some, I can see now 
— but it didn't seem so, then, to either of us." 

" It ain't no affair of mine," remarked 
M'rye, when the pause came, " but if that's 
your business with Abner, you won't make 
much by waitin'. Of course it's nothing to 
me, one way or t'other." 

Not another word was exchanged for a 
long time. From where I sat I could see 
the girl's lips tremble, as she looked stead- 
fastly into the wall. I felt certain that M'rye 
was darning the same place over and over 
again, so furiously did she keep her needle 
flying. 

All at once she looked up angrily. " Well," 
she said, in loud, bitter tones : " Why not 



124 THE COPPERHEAD 

out with what you've come to say, V be done 
with it ? You've heard something, I know ! " 

Esther shook her head. " No, Mrs. Beech," 
she said, with a piteous quaver in her voice, 
"I — I haven't heard anything ! " 

The sound of her own broken utterances 
seemed to affect her deeply. Her eyes filled 
with tears, and she hastily got out a handker- 
chief from her muff, and began drying them. 
She could not keep from sobbing aloud a 
little. 

M'rye deliberately took another stocking 
from the heap in the basket, fitted it over 
the ball, and began a fresh task — all without 
a glance at the weeping girl. 

Thus the two women still sat, when Janey 
came in to lay the table for supper. She 
lifted the lamp off to spread the cloth, and 
put it on again; she brought in plates and 
knives and spoons, and arranged them in 
their accustomed places — all the while fur- 
tively regarding Miss Hagadorn with an 
incredulous surprise. When she had quite 
finished she went over to her mistress and, 
bending low, whispered so that we could all 
hear quite distinctly : " Is she goin' to stay 
to supper ? " 



ESTHER'S VISIT 125 

M'rye hesitated, but Esther lifted her head 
and put down the handkerchief instantly. 
" Oh, no ! " she said, eagerly : " don't think 
of it! I must hurry home as soon as I've 
seen Mr. Beech." Janey went out with an 
obvious air of relief. 

Presently there was a sound of heavy boots 
out in the kitchen being thrown on to the 
floor, and then Abner came in. He halted 
in the doorway, his massive form seeming to 
completely fill it, and devoted a moment or 
so to taking in the novel spectacle of a neigh- 
bor under his roof. Then he advanced, walk- 
ing obliquely till he could see distinctly the 
face of the visitor. It stands to reason that 
he must have been surprised, but he gave no 
sign of it. 

"How d' do, Miss," he said, with grave 
politeness, coming up and offering her his 
big hand. 

Esther rose abruptly, peony-red with pleas- 
urable confusion, and took the hand stretched 
out to her. "How d' do, Mr. Beech," she 
responded with eagerness, "I — I came up 
to see you — a — about something that's very 
pressing." 

" It's blowing up quite a gale outside," the 



126 THE COPPERHEAD 

farmer remarked, evidently to gain time the 
while he scanned her face in a solemn, 
thoughtful way, noting, I doubt not, the 
swollen eyelids and stains of tears, and try- 
ing to guess her errand. " Shouldn't wonder 
if we had a foot o' snow before morning." 

The school-teacher seemed in doubt how 
best to begin what she had to say, so that 
Abner had time, after he lifted his inquiring 
gaze from her, to run a master's eye over the 
table. 

" Have Janey lay another place ! " he said, 
with authoritative brevity. 

As M'rye rose to obey, Esther broke forth : 
" Oh, no, please don't ! Thank you so much, 
Mr. Beech — but really I can't stop — truly, 
I mustn't think of it." 

The farmer merely nodded a confirmation 
of his order to M'rye, who hastened out to the 
kitchen. 

"It'll be there for ye, anyway," he said. 
" Now set down again, please." 

It was all as if he was the one who had the 
news to tell, so naturally did he take com- 
mand of the situation. The girl seated her- 
self, and the farmer drew up his armchair 
and planted himself before her, keeping his 



ESTHER'S VISIT 127 

stockinged feet under the rungs for politeness' 
sake. 

" Now, Miss," he began, just making it civ- 
illy plain that he preferred not to utter her 
hated paternal name, " I don't know no more'n 
a babe unborn what's brought you here. I'm 
sure, from what I know of ye, that you 
wouldn't come to this house jest for the sake 
of comin', or to argy things that can't be, an' 
mustn't be, argied. In one sense, we ain't 
friends of yours here, and there's a heap o' 
things that you an' me don't want to talk 
about, because they'd only lead to bad feelin', 
an' so we'll leave 'em all severely alone. But 
in another way, I've always had a liking for 
you. You're a smart girl, an' a scholar into 
the bargain, an' there ain't so many o' that 
sort knockin' around in these parts that a man 
like myself, who's fond o' books an' learnin', 
wants to be unfriendly to them there is. So 
now you can figure out pretty well where the 
chalk line lays, and we'll walk on it." 

Esther nodded her head. " Yes, I under- 
stand," she remarked, and seemed not to dis- 
like what Abner had said. 

"That being so, what is it?" the farmer 
asked, with his hands on his knees. 



128 THE COPPERHEAD 

" Well, Mr. Beech," the school-teacher be- 
gan, noting with a swift side-glance that M'rye 
had returned, and was herself rearranging the 
table. "I don't think you can have heard it, 
but some important news has come in during 
the day. There seems to be different stories, 
but the grist of them is that a number of the 
leading Union generals have been discovered 
to be traitors, and McClellan has been dis- 
missed from his place at the head of the army, 
and ordered to return to his home in New 
Jersey under arrest, and they say others are 
to be treated in the same way, and Fath — 
some people think it will be a hanging mat- 
ter, and — " 

Abner waved all this aside with a motion of 
his hand. " It don't amount to a hill o' 
beans," he said, placidly. " It's jest spite, 
because we licked 'em at the elections. Don't 
you worry your head about that ! " 

Esther was not reassured. " That isn't all," 
she went on, nervously. " They say there's 
been discovered a big conspiracy, with secret 
sympathizers all over the North." 

" Pooh ! " commented Abner. " We've 
heer'n tell o' that before ! " 

" All over the North," she continued, " with 



■Uf^^> 



ESTHER'S VISIT 129 

the intention of bringing- across infected 
clothes from Canada, and spreading the small- 
pox among us, and — " 

The farmer laughed outright ; a laugh 
embittered by contempt. " What cock-'n'-bull 
story'll be hatched next ! " he said. " You 
don't mean to say you — a girl with a head 
on her shoulders like you — give ear to such 
tomfoolery as that ! Come, now, honest Injin, 
do you mean to tell me you believe all this?" 

" It don't so much matter, Mr. Beech," the 
girl replied, raising her face to his, and speak- 
ing more confidently — " it don't matter at all 
what I believe. I'm talking of what they be- 
lieve down at the Corners." 

" The Corners be jiggered ! " exclaimed 
Abner, politely, but with emphasis. 

Esther rose from the chair. " Mr. Beech," 
she declared, impressively; "they're coming 
up here to-night ! That bonfire of yours made 
'em mad. It's no matter how I learned it — 
it wasn't from father — I don't know that he 
knows anything about it, but they're coming 
here ! and — and Heaven only knows what 
they're going to do when they get here ! " 

The farmer rose also, his huge figure 
towering above that of the girl, as he looked 



130 THE COPPERHEAD 

down at her over his beard. He no longer 
dissembled his stockinged-feet. After a 
moment's pause he said : " So that's what 
you came to tell me, eh ? " 

The school-ma'am nodded her head. " I 
couldn't bear not to," she explained, simply. 

" Well, I'm obleeged to ye ! " Abner re- 
marked, with gravity. " Whatever comes of 
it, I'm obleeged to ye ! " 

He turned at this, and walked slowly out 
into the kitchen, leaving the door open behind 
him. " Pull on your boots again ! " we heard 
him say, presumably to Hurley. In a minute 
or two he returned, with his own boots on, 
and bearing over his arm the old double- 
barrelled shot-gun which always hung above 
the kitchen mantel-piece. In his hands he 
had two shot-flasks, the little tobacco-bag full 
of buckshot, and a powder-horn. He laid 
these on the open shelf of the bookcase, and, 
after fitting fresh caps on the nipples put the 
gun beside them. 

" I'd be all the more sot on your stayin' to 
supper," he remarked, looking again at Esther, 
" only if there should be any unpleasantness, 
why, I'd hate like sin to have you mixed up 
in it. You see how I'm placed." 



ESTHER'S VISIT 131 

Esther did not hesitate a moment. She 
walked over to where M'rye stood by the 
table replenishing the butter-plate. " I'd be 
very glad indeed to stay, Mr. Beech," she 
said, with winning frankness, " if I may." 

" There's the place laid for you," com- 
mented M'rye, impassively. Then, catching 
her husband's eye, she added the perfunctory 
assurance " You're entirely welcome." 

Hurley and the girls came in now, and all 
except me took their seats about the table. 
Both Abner and the Irishman had their coats 
on, out of compliment to company. M'rye 
brought over a thick slice of fresh buttered 
bread with brown sugar on it, and a cup of 
weak tea, and put them beside me on a chair. 
Then the evening meal went forward, the 
farmer talking in a fragmentary way about 
the crops and the weather. Save for an oc- 
casional response from our visitor, the rest 
maintained silence. The Underwood girl 
could not keep her fearful eyes from the gun 
lying on the bookcase, and protested that she 
had no appetite, but Hurley ate vigorously, 
and had a smile on his wrinkled and swarthy 
little face. 

The wind outside whistled shrilly at the 



132 THE COPPERHEAD 

windows, rattling the shutters, and trying its 
force in explosive blasts which seemed to 
rock the house on its stone foundations. 
Once or twice it shook the veranda-door with 
such violence that the folk at the table in- 
stinctively lifted their heads, thinking some- 
one was there. 

Then, all at once, above the confusion of 
the storm's noises, we heard a voice rise, high 
and clear, crying : 

" Smoke the damned Copperhead out ! " 



CHAPTER X 

THE FIRE 

" That was Roselle Upman that hollered," 
remarked Janey Wilcox, breaking the agi- 
tated silence which had fallen upon the sup- 
per table. " You can tell it's him because he's 
had all his front teeth pulled out." 

" I wasn't born in the woods to be skeert by 
an owl ! " replied Abner, with a great show 
of tranquillity, helping himself to another 
slice of bread. " Miss, you ain't half makin' 
out a supper ! " 

But this bravado could not maintain itself. 
In another minute there came a loud chorus 
of angry yells, heightened at its finish by two 
or three pistol shots. Then Abner pushed 
back his chair and rose slowly to his feet, and 
the rest sprang up all around the table. 

" Hurley," said the farmer, speaking as 

deliberately as he knew how, doubtless with 

the idea of reassuring the others, "you go 

out into the kitchen with the women folks, 

133 



134 THE COPPERHEAD 

an' bar the woodshed door, an' bring in the 
axe with you to stan' guard over the kitchen 
door. I'll look out for this part o' the house 
myself." 

" I want to stay in here with you, Abner," 
said M'rye. 

" No, you go out with the others ! " com- 
manded the master with firmness, and so 
they all filed out with no hint whatever of 
me. The shadow of the lamp-shade had cut 
me off altogether from their thoughts. 

Perhaps it is not surprising that my recol- 
lections of what now ensued should lack 
definiteness and sequence. The truth is, 
that my terror at my own predicament, sit- 
ting there with no covering for my feet and 
calves but the burdock leaves and that absurd 
shawl, swamped everything else in my mind. 
Still, I do remember some of it. 

Abner strode across to the bookcase and 
took up the gun, his big thumb resting deter- 
minedly on the hammers. Then he inarched 
to the door, threw it wide open, and planted 
himself on the threshold, looking out into 
the darkness. 

" What's your business here, whoever you 
are ? " he called out, in deep defiant tones. 



THE FIRE 135 

"We've come to take you an' Paddy out 
for a little ride on a rail ! " answered the 
same shrill, mocking voice we had heard 
at first. Then others took up the hostile 
chorus. " We've got some pitch a-heatin' 
round in the back yard ! " " You won't 
catch cold; there's plenty o' feathers!" 
" Tell the Irishman here's some more ears 
for him to chaw on ! " " Come out an' take 
your Copperhead medicine ! " 

There were yet other cries which the 
howling wind tore up into inarticulate frag- 
ments, and then a scattering volley of cheers, 
again emphasized by pistol-shots. While 
the crack of these still chilled my blood, a 
more than usually violent gust swooped 
round Abner's burly figure, and blew out the 
lamp. 

Terrifying as the first instant of utter 
darkness was, the second was recognizable 
as a relief. I at once threw myself out of 
the chair, and crept along back of the stove 
to where my stockings and boots had been 
put to dry. These I hastened, with much 
trembling awkwardness, to pull on, taking 
pains to keep the big square old stove be- 
tween me and that open veranda door. 



136 THE COPPERHEAD 

" Guess we won't take no ride to-night ! " 
I heard Abner roar out, after the shouting 
had for the moment died away. 

" You got to have one ! " came back the 
original voice. "It's needful for your com- 
plaint ! " 

"I've got somethin' here that'll fit your 
complaint ! " bellowed the farmer, raising 
• his gun. "Take warnin' — -the first cuss 
that sets foot on this stoop, I'll bore a four- 
inch hole clean through him. I've got squir- 
rel shot, an' I've got buck-shot, an' there's 
plenty more behind — so take your choice ! " 

There were a good many derisive answer- 
ing yells and hoots, and someone again fired 
a pistol in the air, but nobody offered to 
come up on the veranda. 

Emboldened by this, I stole across the 
room now to one of the windows, and lifting 
a corner of the shade, strove to look out. At 
first there was nothing whatever to be seen 
in the utter blackness. Then I made out 
some faint reddish sort of diffused light in 
the upper air, which barely sufficed to indi- 
cate the presence of some score or more dark 
figures out in the direction of the pump. 
Evidently they had built a fire around in the 



THE FIBE 137 

back yard, as they said — probably starting 
it there so that its light might not disclose 
their identity. 

This looked as if they really meant to 
tar-and-feather Abner and Hurley. The ex- 
pression was familiar enough to my ears, and, 
from pictures in stray illustrated weeklies 
that found their way to the Corners, I had 
gathered some general notion of the proced- 
ure involved. The victim was stripped, I 
knew, and daubed over with hot melted 
pitch ; then a pillow-case of feathers was 
emptied over him, and he was forced astride 
a fence-rail, which the rabble hoisted on their 
shoulders and ran about with. But my fancy 
balked at and refused the task of imagining 
Abner Beech in this humiliating posture. 
At least it was clear to my mind that a good 
many fierce and bloody things would happen 
first. 

Apparently this had become clear to the 
throng outside as well. Whole minutes had 
gone by, and still no one mounted the ver- 
anda to seek close quarters with the farmer 
— who stood braced with his legs wide apart, 
bare-headed and erect, the wind blowing his 
huge beard sidewise over his shoulder. 



138 THE COPPERHEAD 

"Well! ain't none o' you a-comin'?" he 
called out at last, with impatient sarcasm. 
" Thought you was so sot on takin' me out 
an' havin' some fun with me ! " After a brief 
pause, another taunt occurred to him. " Why, 
even the niggers you're so in love with," he 
shouted, " they ain't such dod-rotted cowards 
as you be ! " 

A general movement was discernible among 
the shadowy forms outside. I thought for 
the instant that it meant a swarming attack 
upon the veranda. But no! suddenly it had 
grown much lighter, and the mob was mov- 
ing away toward the rear of the house. The 
men were shouting things to one another, 
but the wind for the moment was at such a 
turbulent pitch that all their words were 
drowned. The reddened light waxed brighter 
still — and now there was nobody to be seen 
at all from the window. 

" Hurry here ! Mr. Beech ! We're all 
afire ! " cried a frightened voice in the room 
behind me. 

It may be guessed how I turned. 

The kitchen door was open, and the figure 
of a woman stood on the threshold, indefi- 
nitely black against a strange yellowish-drab 



THE FIRE 139 

half light which framed it. This woman 
— one knew from the voice that it was 
Esther Hagaclorn — seemed to be wringing 
her hands. 

" Hurry ! Hurry ! " she cried again, and I 
could see now that the little passage was full 
of gray luminous smoke, which was drifting 
past her into the living-room. Even as I 
looked, it had half obscured her form, and 
was rolling in, in waves. 

Abner had heard her, and strode across 
the room now, gun still in hand, into the 
thick of the smoke, pushing Esther before 
him and shutting the kitchen door with a 
bang as he passed through. I put in a terri- 
fied minute or two alone in the dark, amazed 
and half-benumbed by the confused sounds 
that at first came from the kitchen, and 
by the horrible suspense, when a still more 
sinister silence ensued. Then there rose a 
loud crackling noise, like the incessant pop- 
ping of some giant variety of corn. The 
door burst open again, and M'rye's tall form 
seemed literally flung into the room by the 
sweeping volume of dense smoke which 
poured in. She pulled the door to behind 
her — then gave a snarl of excited emotion 



140 THE COPPERHEAD 

at seeing me by the dusky reddened radiance 
which began forcing its way from outside 
through the holland window shades. 

• " Light the lamp, you gump ! " she com- 
manded, breathlessly, and fell with fierce 
concentration upon the task of dragging fur- 
niture out from the bed-room. I helped her 
in a frantic, bewildered fashion, after I had 
lighted the lamp, which flared and smoked 
without its shade, as we toiled. M'rye 
seemed all at once to have the strength of 
a dozen men. She swung the ponderous 
chest of drawers out end on end; she fairly 
lifted the still bigger bookcase, after I had 
hustled the books out on to the table ; she 
swept off the bedding, slashed the cords, and 
jerked the bed-posts and side-pieces out of 
their connecting sockets with furious energy, 
till it seemed as if both rooms must have 
been dismantled in less time than I have 
taken to tell of it. 

The crackling overhead had swollen now 
to a wrathful roar, rising above the gusty 
voices of the wind. The noise, the heat, the 
smoke, and terror of it all made me sick and 
faint. I grew dizzy, and did foolish things 
in an aimless way, fumbling about among 



THE FIRE 141 

the stuff M'rye was hurling forth. Then all 
at once her darkling, smoke-wrapped figure 
shot up to an enormous height, the lamp 
began to go round, and I felt myself with 
nothing but space under my feet, plunging 
downward with awful velocity, surrounded 
by whirling skies full of stars. 

There was a black night-sky overhead 
when I came to my senses again, with flecks 
of snow in the cold air on my face. The 
wind had fallen, everything was as still as 
death, and someone was carrying me in his 
arms. I tried to lift my head. 

" Aisy now ! " came Hurley's admonitory 
voice, close to my ear. " We'll be there in a 
minyut." 

" No — I'm all right — let me down," I 
urged. He set me on my feet, and I looked 
amazedly about me. 

The red-brown front of our larger hay-barn 
loomed in a faint unnatural light, at close 
quarters, upon my first inquiring gaze. The 
big sliding doors were open, and the slanting 
wagon-bridge running down from their thresh- 
old was piled high with chairs, bedding, 
crockery, milk-pans, clothing — the jumbled 



142 THE COPPERHEAD 

remnants of our household gods. Turning, I 
looked across the yard upon what was left of 
the Beech homestead — a glare of cherry light 
glowing above a fiery hole in the ground. 

Strangely enough this glare seemed to per- 
petuate in its outlines the shape and dimen- 
sions of the vanished house. It was as if the 
house were still there, but transmuted from 
joists and clap-boards and shingles, into an 
illuminated and impalpable ghost of itself. 
There was a weird effect of transparency 
about it. Through the spectral bulk of red 
light I could see the naked and gnarled ap- 
ple-trees in the home-orchard on the further 
side ; and I remembered at once that painful 
and striking parallel of Scrooge gazing 
through the re-edified body of Jacob Marley, 
and beholding the buttons at the back of his 
coat. It all seemed some monstrous dream. 

But no, here the others were. Janey Wil- 
cox and the Underwood girl had come out 
from the barn, and were carrying in more 
things. I perceived now that there was a 
candle burning inside, and presently Esther 
Hagadorn was to be seen. Hurley had dis- 
appeared, and so I went up the sloping plat- 
form to join the women — noting with weak 



THE FIEE 143 

surprise that my knees seemed to have ac- 
quired new double joints and behaved as if 
they were going in the other direction. I 
stumbled clumsity once I was inside the barn, 
and sat down with great abruptness on a 
milking-stool, leaning my head back against 
the hay-mow, and conscious of entire indiffer- 
ence as to whether school kept or not. 

Again it was like some half-waking vision 
— the feeble light of the candle losing itself 
upon the broad high walls of new hay; the 
huge shadows in the rafters overhead ; the 
women-folk silently moving about, fixing up 
on the barn floor some pitiful imitation, poor 
souls, of the home that had been swept off the 
face of the earth, and outside, through the 
wide sprawling doors, the dying away efful- 
gence of the embers of our roof-tree lingering 
in the air of the winter night. 

Abner Beech came in presently, with the 
gun in one hand, and a blackened and out- 
landish-looking object in the other, which 
turned out to be the big pink sea-shell that 
used to decorate the parlor mantel. He held 
it up for M'rye to see, with a grave, tired 
smile on his face. 

" We got it out, after all — just by the skin 



144 THE COPPERHEAD 

of our teeth," he said, and Hurley, behind 
him, confirmed this by an eloquent grimace. 

M'rye's black eyes snapped and sparkled as 
she lifted the candle and saw what this some- 
thing was. Then she boldly put up her face 
and kissed her husband with a resounding 
smack. Truly it was a night of surprises. 

" That's about the only thing I had to call 
my own when I was married," she offered in 
explanation of her fervor, speaking to the 
company at large. Then she added in a 
lower tone, to Esther: u He used to play with 
it for hours at a stretch — when he was a 
baby." 

" 'Member how he used to hold it up to his 
ear, eh, mother?" asked A bner, softly. 

M'rye nodded her head, and then put her 
apron up to her eyes for a brief moment. 
When she lowered it, we saw an unaccus- 
tomed smile mellowing her hard-set, swarthy 
face. 

The candle light flashed upon a tear on her 
cheek that the apron had missed. 

" I guess I do remember ! " she said, with 
a voice full of tenderness. 

Then Esther's hand stole into M'rye's and 
the two women stood together before Abner, 



THE FIRE 145 

erect and with beaming countenances, and he 
smiled upon them both. 

It seemed that we were all much happier 
in our minds, now that our house had been 
burned down over our heads. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE CONQUEST OF ABNER 

Some time during the night, I was awak- 
ened by the mice frisking through the hay 
about my ears. My head was aching again, 
and I could not get back into sleep. Besides, 
Hurley was snoring mercilessly. 

We two had chosen for our resting-place 
the little mow of half a load or so, which had 
not been stowed away above, but lay ready 
for present use over by the side-door opening 
on the cow-yard. Temporary beds had been 
spread for the women with fresh straw and 
blankets at the further end of the central 
threshing-floor. Abner himself had taken 
one of the rescued ticks and a quilt over to 
the other end, and stretched his ponderous 
length out across the big doors, with the gun 
by his side. No one had, of course, dreamed 
of undressing. 

Only a few minutes of wakefulness sufficed 
to throw me into a desperate state of fidgets. 

146 



THE CONQUEST OF ABNEB 147 

The hay seemed full of strange creeping 
noises. The whole big barn echoed with the 
boisterous ticking of the old eight-clay clock 
which had been saved from the wreck of the 
kitchen, and which M'rye had set going again 
on the seat of the democrat wagon. And 
then Hurley ! 

I began to be convinced, now, that I was 
coming down with a great spell of sickness 
— perhaps even "the fever." Yes, it un- 
doubtedly was the fever. I could feel it in 
my bones, which now started up queer prickly 
sensations on novel lines, quite as if they 
were somebody else's bones instead. My 
breathing, indeed, left a good deal to be 
desired from the true fever standpoint. It 
was not nearly so rapid or convulsive as I 
understood that the breathing of a genuine 
fever victim ought to be. But that, no doubt, 
would come soon enough — nay ! was it not 
already coming? I thought, upon examina- 
tion, that I did breathe more swiftly than 
before. And oh ! that Hurley ! 

As noiselessly as possible I made my way, 
half-rolling, half-sliding, off the hay, and got 
on my feet on the floor. It was pitch dark, 
but I could feel along the old disused stan- 



148 THE COPPERHEAD 

chion-row to the corner ; thence it was plain 
sailing over to where Abner was sleeping by 
the big front doors. I would not dream of 
rousing him if he was in truth asleep, but it 
would be something to be nigh him, in case 
the fever should take a fatal turn before 
morning. I would just cuddle down on the 
floor near to him, and await events. 

When I had turned the corner, it surprised 
me greatly to see ahead of me, over at the 
front of the barn, the reflection of a light. 
Creeping along toward it, I came out upon 
Abner, seated with his back against one of 
the doors, looking over an account-book by 
the aid of a lantern perched on a box at his 
side. He had stood the frame of an old bob- 
sleigh on end close by, and hung a horse- 
blanket over it, so that the light might not 
disturb the women-folk at the other end of 
the barn. The gun lay on the floor beside 
him. 

He looked up at my approach, and regarded 
me with something, I fancied, of disapproba- 
tion in his habitually grave expression. 

" Well, old seventy-six, what's the matter 
with you? " he asked, keeping his voice down 
to make as little noise as possible. 



THE CONQUEST OF ABNEE 149 

I answered in the same cautious tones that 
I was feeling bad. Had any encouragement 
suggested itself in the farmer's mien, I was 
prepared to overwhelm him with a relation 
of my symptoms in detail. But he shook his 
head instead. 

"You'll have to wait till morning, to be- 
sick," he said — " that is, to get 'tended to. 
I don't know anything about such things, an' 
I wouldn't wake M'rye up now for a whole 
baker's dozen o' you chaps." Seeing my face 
fall at this sweeping declaration, he proceeded 
to modify it in a kindlier tone. " Now you 
just lay down again, sonny," he added, " an' 
you'll be to sleep in no time, an' in the morn- 
ing M'rye '11 fix up something for ye. This 
ain't no fit time for white folks to be belly- 
achin' around." 

" I kind o' thought I'd feel better if I was 
sleeping over here near you," I ventured now 
to explain, and his nod was my warrant for 
tiptoeing across to the heap of disorganized 
furniture, and getting out some blankets and 
a comforter, which I arranged in the corner 
a few yards away and simply rolled myself 
up in, with my face turned away from the 
light. It was better over here than with 



150 THE COPPERHEAD 

Hurley, and though that prompt sleep which 
the farmer had promised did not come, I at 
least was drowsily conscious of an improved 
physical condition. 

Perhaps I drifted off more than half-way into 
dreamland, for it was with a start that all at 
once I heard someone close by talking with 
Abner. 

" I saw you were up, Mr. Beech " — it was 
Esther Hagadorn who spoke — " and I don't 
seem able to sleep, and I thought, if you didn't 
mind, I'd come over here." 

" Why, of course," the farmer responded. 
" Just bring up a chair there, an' sit down. 
That's it — wrap the shawl around you good. 
It's a cold night — snowin' hard outside." 

Both had spoken in muffled tones, so as 
not to disturb the others. This same domi- 
nant notion of keeping still deterred me from 
turning over, in order to be able to see them. 
I expected to hear them discuss my illness, 
but they never referred to it. Instead, there 
was what seemed a long silence. Then the 
school-ma'am spoke. 

" I can't begin to tell you," she said, " how 
glad I am that you and your wife aren't a bit 
cast down by the — the calamity." 



THE CONQUEST OF ABNER 151 

"No," came back Abner's voice, buoyant 
even in its half-whisper, "we're all right. 
I've be'n sort o' figurin' up here, an' they 
ain't much real harm done. I'm insured 
pretty well. Of course, this bein' obleeged 
to camp out in a hay-barn might be improved 
on, but then it's a change — somethin' out o' 
the ordinary rut — an' it'll do us good. I'll 
have the carpenters over from Juno Mills in 
the forenoon, an' if they push things, we can 
have a roof over us again before Christmas. 
It could be done even sooner, p'raps, only 
they ain't any neighbors to help me with a 
raisin' bee. They're willin' enough to burn my 
house down, though. However, I don't want 
them not an atom more'n they want me." 

There was no trace of anger in his voice. 
He spoke like one contemplating the unalter- 
able conditions of life. 

" Did they really, do you believe, set it on 
fire ? " Esther asked, intently. 

" No, I think it caught from that fool-fire 
they started around back of the house, to 
heat their fool tar by. The wind was blow- 
ing a regular gale, you know. Janey Wilcox, 
she will have it that that Roselle Upman set 
it on purpose. But then, she don't like him 



152 THE COPPERHEAD 

— an' I can't blame her much, for that matter. 
Once Otis Barnum was seem' her home from 
singin' school, an' when he was goin' back 
alone this Roselle Upman waylaid him in the 
dark, an' pitched onto him, an' broke his col- 
lar-bone. I always thought it puffed Janey 
up some, this bein' fought over like that, but 
it made her mad to have Otis hurt on her 
account, an' then nothing come of it. I 
wouldn't a' minded pepperin' Roselle's legs 
a trifle, if I'd had a barrel loaded, say, with 
birdshot. He's a nuisance to the whole 
neighborhood. He kicks up a fight at every 
dance he goes to, all winter long, an' hangs 
around the taverns day in an' day out, in- 
ducin' young men to drink an' loaf. I 
thought a fellow like him 'd be sure to go 
off to the war, an' so good riddance ; but 
no ! darned if the coward don't go an' get 
his front teeth pulled, so 't he can't bite 
ca'tridges, an' jest stay around, a worse nui- 
sance than ever ! I'd half forgive that mis- 
erable war if it — only took off the — the 
right men." 

" Mr. Beech," said Esther, in low fervent 
tones, measuring each word as it fell, " you 
and I, we must forgive that war together ! " 



THE CONQUEST OF ABNER 153 

I seemed to feel the farmer shaking his 
head. He said nothing in reply. 

" I'm beginning to understand how you've 
felt about it all along," the girl went on, after 
a pause. " I knew the fault must be in my 
ignorance, that our opinions of plain right 
and plain wrong should be such poles apart. 
I got a school-friend of mine, whose father is 
your way of thinking, to send me all the 
papers that came to their house, and I've 
been going through them religiously — when- 
ever I could be quite alone. I don't say I 
don't think you're wrong, because I do, but 
I am getting to understand how you should 
believe yourself to be right." 

She paused as if expecting a reply, but 
Abner only said, " Go on," after some hesita- 
tion, and she went on : 

" Now take the neighbors all about here — " 

"Excuse me!" broke in the farmer. "I 
guess if it's all the same to you, I'd rather 
not. They're too rich for my blood." 

" Take these very neighbors," pursued 
Esther, with gentle determination. " Some- 
thing must be very wrong indeed when they 
behave to you the way they do. Why I 
know that even now, right down in their 



154 THE COPPERHEAD 

hearts, they recognize that you're far and 
away the best man in Agrippa. Why, I re- 
member, Mr. Beech, when I first applied, and 
you were school-commissioner, and you sat 
there through the examination — why, you 
were the only one whose opinion I gave a rap 
for. When you praised me, why, I was 
prouder of it than if you had been a Regent 
of the University. And I tell you, every- 
body all around here feels at bottom just 
as I do." 

" They take a dummed curious way o' 
showin' it, then," commented Abner, roundly. 

" It isn't that they're trying to show at 
all," said Esther. " They feel that other 
things are more important. They're all 
wrought up over the war. How could it be 
otherwise when almost everyone of them has 
got a brother, or a father, or — or — a son — 
down there in the South, and every day 
brings news that some of these have been 
shot dead, and more still wounded and 
crippled, and others — others, that God only 
knows what has become of them — oh, how 
can they help feeling that way? I don't 
know that I ought to say it — " the school- 
ma'am stopped to catch her breath, and hesi- 



THE CONQUEST OF ABNER 155 

tated, then went on — " but yes, you'll 
understand me now — there was a time here, 
not so long ago, Mr. Beech, when I downright 
hated you — you and M'rye both!" 

This was important enough to turn over 
for. I flopped as unostentatiously as possi- 
ble, and neither of them gave any sign of 
having noted my presence. The farmer sat 
with his back against the door, the quilt drawn 
up to his waist, his head bent in silent medi- 
tation. His whole profile was in deep shadow 
from where I lay — darkly massive and power- 
ful and solemn . Esther was watching him with 
all her eyes, leaning forward from her chair, 
the lantern-light full upon her eager face. 

" M'rye an' I don't lay ourselves out to be 
specially bad folks, as folks go," the farmer 
said at last, by way of deprecation. " We've 
got our faults, of course, like the rest, but — " 

" No," interrupted Esther, with a half- 
tearful smile in her eyes. " You only pre- 
tend to have faults. You really haven't got 
any at all." 

The shadowed outline of Abner's face 
softened. "Why, that is a fault itself, ain't 
it ? " he said, as if pleased with his logical 
acuteness. 



156 THE COPPERHEAD 

The crowing of some foolish rooster, grown 
tired of waiting for the belated November 
daylight, fell upon the silence from one of 
the buildings near by. 

Abner Beech rose to his feet with ponder- 
ous slowness, pushing the bedclothes aside 
with his boot, and stood beside Esther's chair. 
He laid his big hand on her shoulder with a 
patriarchal gesture. 

" Come now," he said, gently, " you go 
back to bed, like a good girl, an' get some 
sleep. It'll be all right." 

The girl rose in turn, bearing her shoulder 
so that the fatherly hand might still remain 
upon it. " Truly ? " she asked, with a new 
light upon her pale face. 

" Yes — truly ! " Abner replied, gravely 
nodding his head. 

Esther took the hand from her shoulder, 
and shook it in both of hers. " Good-night 
again, then," she said, and turned to go. 

Suddenly there resounded the loud rap- 
ping of a stick on the barn-door, close by my 
head. 

Abner squared his huge shoulders and 
threw a downright glance at the gun on the 
floor. 



THE CONQUEST OF ABNEB 157 

"Well? "he called out. 

" Is my doHater inside there f " 

We all knew that thin, high-pitched, queru- 
lous voice. It was old " Jee " Hagadorn who 
was outside. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE UNWELCOME GUEST 

Abner and Esther stood for a bewildered 
minute, staring at the rough unpainted boards 
through which this astonishing inquiry had 
come. I scrambled to my feet and kicked 
aside the tick and blankets. Whatever else 
happened, it did not seem likely that there 
was any more sleeping to be done. Then the 
farmer strode forward and dragged one of the 
doors back on its squeaking rollers. Some 
snow fell in upon his boots from the ridge 
that had formed against it over night. Save 
for a vaguely faint snow-light in the air, it 
was still dark. 

" Yes, she's here," said Abner, with his hand 
on the open door. 

" Then I'd like to know — " the invisible 
Jee began excitedly shouting from without. 

" Sh-h ! You'll wake everybody up ! " the 
farmer interposed. " Come inside, so that 
I can shut the door." 

158 



THE UNWELCOME GUEST 159 

" Never under your roof ! " came back the 
shrill hostile voice. " I swore I never would, 
and I won't ! " 

" You'd have to take a crowbar to get under 
my roof," returned Abner, grimly conscious 
of a certain humor in the thought. " What's 
left of it is layin' over yonder in what used to 
be the cellar. So you needn't stand on cere- 
mony on that account. I ain't got no house 
now, so't your oath ain't bindin'. Besides, 
the Bible says, ' Swear not at all ! " 

A momentary silence ensued ; then Abner 
rattled the door on its wheels. " Well, what 
are you goin' to do ? " he asked, impatiently. 
" I can't keep this door open all night, freezin' 
everybody to death. If you won't come in, 
you'll have to stay out ! " and again there was 
an ominous creaking of the rollers. 

" I want my da'ater ! " insisted Jehoiada, 
vehemently. " I stan' on a father's rights." 

" A father ain't got no more right to make 
a fool of himself than anybody else," replied 
Abner, gravely. " What kind of a time o' 
night is this, with the snow knee-deep, for a 
girl to be out o' doors ? She's all right here, 
with my women-folks, an' I'll bring her down 
with the cutter in the mornin' — that is, if 



160 THE COPPERHEAD 

she wants to come. An' now, once for all, 
will you step inside or not?" 

Esther had taken up the lantern and ad- 
vanced with it now to the open door. " Come 
in, father," she said, in tones which seemed 
to be authoritative. " They've been very kind 
to me. Come in ! " 

Then, to my surprise, the lean and scrawny 
figure of the cooper emerged from the dark- 
ness, and stepping high over the snow, entered 
the barn, Abner sending the door to behind 
him with a mighty sweep of the arm. 

Old Hagadorn came in grumbling under his 
breath, and stamping the snow from his feet 
with sullen kicks. He bore a sledge-stake in 
one of his mittened hands. A worsted com- 
forter was wrapped around his neck and ears 
and partially over his conical-peaked cap. 
He rubbed his long thin nose against his mit- 
ten and blinked sulkily at the lantern and the 
girl who held it. 

" So here you be ! " he said at last, in vexed 
tones. " An' me traipsin' around in the snow 
the best part of the night lookin' for you ! " 

" See here, father," said Esther, speaking 
in a measured, deliberate way, " we won't 
talk about that at all. If a thousand times 



THE UNWELCOME GUEST 161 

worse things had happened to both of us 
than have, it still wouldn't be worth mention- 
ing compared with what has befallen these 
good people here. They've been attacked by 
a mob of rowdies and loafers, and had their 
house and home burned down over their heads 
and been driven to take refuge here in this 
barn of a winter's night. They've shared 
their shelter with me and been kindness it- 
self, and now that you're here, if you can't 
think of anything pleasant to say to them, if 
I were you I'd say nothing at all." 

This was plain talk, but it seemed to pro- 
duce a satisfactory effect upon Jehoiada. He 
unwound his comforter enough to liberate 
his straggling sandy beard and took off his 
mittens. After a moment or two he seated 
himself in the chair, with a murmured " I'm 
jest about tuckered out," in apology for the 
action. He did, in truth, present a woeful 
picture of fatigue and physical feebleness, 
now that we saw him in repose. The bones 
seemed ready to start through the parchment- 
like skin on his gaunt cheeks, and his eyes 
glowed with an unhealthy fire, as he sat, 
breathing hard and staring at the jumbled 
heaps of furniture on the floor. 



162 TEE COPPEREEAD 

Esther had put the lantern again on the 
box and drawn forward a chair for Abner, but 
the farmer declined it with a wave of the 
hand and continued to stand in the back- 
ground, looking his ancient enemy over from 
head to foot with a meditative gaze. Jehoiada 
grew visibly nervous under this inspection; 
he fidgeted on his chair and then fell to 
coughing — a dry, rasping cough which had 
an evil sound, and which he seemed to make 
the worse by fumbling aimlessly at the button 
that held the overcoat collar round his throat. 

At last Abner walked slowly over to the 
shadowed masses of piled-up household things 
and lifted out one of the drawers that had 
been taken from the framework of the bureau 
and brought over with their contents. Ap- 
parently it was not the right one, for he 
dragged aside a good many objects to get at 
another, and rummaged about in this for sev- 
eral minutes. Then he came out again into 
the small segment of the lantern's radiance 
with a pair of long thick woolen stockings of 
his own in his hand. 

"You better pull off them wet boots an' 
draw these on," he said, addressing Hagadorn, 
but looking fixedly just over his head. " It 



THE UNWELCOME GUEST 163 

won't do that cough o' yours no good, settin' 
around with wet feet." 

The cooper looked in a puzzled way at 
the huge butternut-yarn stockings held out 
under his nose, but he seemed too much 
taken aback to speak or to offer to touch 
them. 

" Yes, father ! " said Esther, with quite an 
air of command. " You know what that 
cough means," and straightway Hagadorn 
lifted one of his feet to his knee and started 
tugging at the boot-heel in a desultory way. 
He desisted after a few half-hearted attempts, 
and began coughing again, this time more 
distressingly than ever. 

His daughter sprang forward to help him, 
but Abner pushed her aside, put the stock- 
ings under his arm, and himself undertook 
the job. He did not bend his back overmuch, 
but hoisted Jee's foot well in the air and 
pulled. 

" Brace your foot agi'n mine an' hold on 
to the chair ! " he ordered, sharply, for the 
first effect of his herculean pull had been to 
nearly drag the cooper to the floor. He 
went at it more gently now, easing the soaked 
leather up and down over the instep until the 



164 THE COPPERHEAD 

boots were off. He looked furtively at the 
bottoms of these before he tossed them aside, 
noting, no doubt, as I did, how old and 
broken and run down at the heel they were. 
Jee himself peeled off the drenched stockings, 
and they too were flimsy old things, darned 
and mended almost out of their original 
color. 

These facts served only to deepen my 
existing low opinion of Hagadorn, but they 
appeared to affect Abner Beech differently. 
He stood by and watched the cooper dry his 
feet and then draw on the warm dry hose 
over his shrunken shanks, with almost a 
friendly interest. Then he shoved along one 
of the blankets across the floor to Hagradorn's 
chair that he might wrap his feet in it. 

" That's it," he said, approvingly. " They 
ain't no means o' building a fire here right 
now, but as luck would have it we'd jest set 
up an old kitchen stove in the little cow-barn 
to warm up gruel for the ca'aves with, an' 
the first thing we'll do'll be to rig it up in 
here to cook breakfast by, an' then we'll dry 
them boots o' yourn in no time. You go an' 
pour some oats into 'em now," Abner added, 
turning to me. " And you might as well 



THE UNWELCOME GUEST 165 

call Hurley. We've got considerable to do, 
an' daylight's breakin'." 

The Irishman lay on his back where I had 
left him, still snoring tempestuously. As a 
rule he was a light sleeper, but this time I 
had to shake him again and again before he 
understood that it was morning. I opened 
the side-door, and sure enough, the day had 
begun. The clouds had cleared away. The 
sky was still ashen gray overhead, but the 
light from the horizon, added to the white- 
ness of the unaccustomed snow, rendered it 
quite easy to see one's way about inside. I 
went to. the oat-bin. 

Hurley, sitting up and rubbing his eyes, 
regarded me and my task with curiosity. 
" An' is it a stovepipe for a measure ye 
have ? " he asked. 

" No ; it's one of Jee Hagadorn's boots," I 
replied. " I'm filling 'em so't they'll swell 
when they're dryin'." 

He slid down off the hay as if someone 
had pushed him. "What's that ye say? 
Haggydorh? Ould Haggydorn?" he de- 
manded. 

I nodded assent. "Yes, he's inside with 
Abner," I explained. " An' he's got on 



166 THE COPPERHEAD 

Abner's stockin's, an' it looks like he's goin' 
to stay to breakfast." 

Hurley opened his mouth in sheer surprise 
and gazed at me with hanging jaw and round 
eyes. 

" 'Tis the fever that's on ye," he said, at 
last. " Ye're wandherin' in yer mind ! " 

" You just go in and see for yourself," I 
replied, and Hurley promptly took me at my 
word. 

He came back presently, turning the corner 
of the stanchions in a depressed and rambling 
way, quite at variance with his accustomed 
swinging gait. He hung his head, too, and 
shook it over and over again perplexedly. 

" Abner 'n' me'll be bringin' in the stove," 
he said. " 'Tis not fit for you to go out wid 
that sickness on ye." 

" Well, anyway," I retorted, " you see I 
wasn't wanderin' much in my mind." 

Hurley shook his head again. " Well, 
then," he began, lapsing into deep brogue 
and speaking rapidly, " I've meself seen the 
woman wid the head of a horse on her in the 
lake forninst the Three Castles, an' me sister's 
first man, sure he broke down the ditch 
round-about the Danes' fort on Dunkelly, an' 



THE UNWELCOME GUEST 167 

a foine grand young man, small for his 
strength an' wid a red cap on his head, flew 
out an' wint up in the sky, an' whin he re- 
lated it up comes Father Forrest to him in 
the potaties, an' says he, ' I do be suprised 
wid you, O'Driscoll, for to be relatin' such 
loies.' ' I'll take me Bible oat' on 'em ! ' 
says he. ' 'Tis your imagination ! ' says the 
priest. ' No imagination at all!' says O'Dris- 
coll ; ' sure, I saw it wid dese two eyes, as 
plain as I'm lookin' at your riverence, an' a 
far grander sight it was too ! ' An' me own 
mother, faith, manny's the toime I've seen 
her makin' up dhrops for the yellow sickliest 
wid woodlice, an' sayin' Hail Marys over 'em, 
an' thim same 'ud cure annything from sore 
teeth to a wooden leg for moiles round. But, 
saints help me ! I never seen the loikes o' 
this ! Haggydorn is it ? Ould Haggydorn ! 
Huh!" 

Then the Irishman, still with a dejected 
air, started off across the yard through the 
snow to the cow-barns, mumbling to himself 
as he went. 

I had heard Abner's heavy tread coming 
along the stanchions toward me, but now all 
at once it stopped. The farmer's wife had fol- 



168 THE COPPERHEAD 

lowed him into the passage, and he had halted 
to speak with her. 

" They ain't no two ways about it, mother," 
he expostulated. " We jest got to put the 
best face on it we kin, an' act civil, an' pass 
the time o' day as if nothing'd ever happened 
atween us. He'll be goin' the first thing 
after breakfast." 

" Oh ! I ain't agoin' to sass him, or say any- 
thing uncivil," M'rye broke in, reassuringly. 
" What I mean is, I dont want to come into 
the for'ard end of the barn at all. They ain't 
no need of it. I kin cook the breakfast in 
back, and Janey kin fetch it for'ard for yeh, 
an' nobody need say anythin', or be any the 
wiser." 

" Yes, I know," argued Abner, " but there's 
the looks o' the thing. J say, if you're goin' 
to do a thing, why, do it right up to the han- 
dle, or else don't do it at all. An' then 
there's the girl to consider, and her feelin's." 

" Dunno't her feelin's are such a pesky 
sight more importance than other folkses," 
remarked M'rye, callously. 

This unaccustomed recalcitrancy seemed to 
take Abner aback. He moved a few steps 
forward, so that he became visible from where 



THE UNWELCOME GUEST 169 

I stood, then halted again and turned, his 
shoulders rounded, his hands clasped behind 
his back. I could see him regarding M'rye 
from under his broad hat-brim with a gaze at 
once dubious and severe. 

" I ain't much in the habit o' hearin' you 
talk this way to me, mother," he said at last, 
with grave depth of tones and significant 
deliberation. 

"Well, I can't help it, Abner!" rejoined 
M'rye, bursting forth in vehement utterance, 
all the more excited from the necessity she 
felt of keeping it out of hearing of the unwel- 
come guest. " I don't want to do anything 
to aggravate you, or go contrary to your no- 
tions, but with even the willin'est pack-horse 
there is such a thing as pilin' it on too thick. 
I can stan' bein' burnt out o' house 'n' home, 
an' seein' pretty nigh every rag an' stick I 
had in the world go kitin' up the chimney, 
an' campin' out here in a barn — My Glory, 
yes ! — an' as much more on top o' that, but, 
I tell you flat-footed, I can't stomach Jee 
Hagadorn, an' I won't!" 

Abner continued to contemplate the re- 
volted M'rye with displeased amazement 
written all over his face. Once or twice I 



170 THE COPPERHEAD 

thought he was going to speak, but nothing 
came of it. He only looked and looked, as if 
he had the greatest difficulty in crediting 
what he saw. 

Finally, with a deep-chested sigh, he turned 
again. " I s'pose this is still more or less of a 
free country," he said. "If you're sot on it, I 
can't hender you," and he began walking 
once more toward me. 

M'rye followed him out and put a hand on 
his arm. " Don't go off like that, Abner ! " 
she adjured him. " You know there ain't 
nothin' in this whole wide world I wouldn't 
do to please you — if I could ! But this thing 
jest goes ag'in' nry grain. It's the way folks 
are made. It's your nater to be forgivin' an' 
do good to them that despitefully use you." 

" No, it ain't ! " declared Abner, vigorously. 
" No, sirree ! ' Hold fast ' is my nater. I 
stan' out ag'in' my enemies till the last cow 
comes home. But when they come wadin' in 
through the snow, with their feet soppin' wet, 
an' coughin' fit to turn themselves inside out, 
an' their daughter is there, an' you've sort o' 
made it up with her, an' we're all campin' out 
in a barn, don't you see — " 

" No, I can't see it," replied M'rye, regretful 



THE UNWELCOME GUEST 171 

but firm. " They always said we Rams wells 
had Injun blood in us somewhere. An' when 
I get an Injun streak on me, right down in 
the marrow o' my bones, why, you musn't 
blame me — or feel hard if — if I — " 

"No-o," said Abner, with reluctant convic- 
tion, " I s'pose not. I dare say you're actin' 
accordin' to your lights. An' besides, he'll 
be goin' the first thing after breakfast." 

"An' you ain't mad, Abner?" pleaded 
M'rye, almost tremulously, as if frightened at 
the dimensions of the victory she had won. 

" Why, bless your heart, no," answered the 
farmer, with a glaring simulation of easy- 
mindedness. " No — that's all right, mother ! " 

Then with long heavy-footed strides the 
farmer marched past me and out into the 
cow-yard. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE BREAKFAST 

If there was ever a more curious meal in 
Dearborn County than that first breakfast of 
ours in the barn, I never heard of it. 

The big table was among the things saved 
from the living-room, and Esther spread it 
again with the cloth which had been in use 
on the previous evening. There was the 
stain of the tea which the Underwood girl 
had spilled in the exitement of the supper's 
rough interruption ; there were other marks 
of calamit}^ upon it as well — the smudge of 
cinders, for one thing, and a general diffused 
effect of smokiness. But it was the only 
table-cloth we had. The dishes, too, were a 
queer lot, representing two or three sets of 
widely differing patterns and value, other 
portions of which we should never see again. 

When it was announced that breakfast was 
ready, Abner took his accustomed arm-chair 
at the head of the table. He only half 
172 



THE BREAKFAST 173 

turned bis head toward Hagadorn and said in 
formal tones, over his shoulder, " Won't you 
draw up and have some breakfast?" 

Jee was still sitting where he had planted 
himself two hours or so before. He still wore 
his round cap, with the tabs tied down 
over his ears. In addition to his overcoat, 
someone — probably his daughter — had 
wrapped a shawl about his thin shoulders. 
The boots had not come in, as yet, from the 
stove, and the blanket was drawn up over 
his stockinged feet to the knees. From time 
to time his lips moved, as if he were reciting 
scripture texts to himself, but so far as I 
knew, he had said nothing to anyone. His 
cough seemed rather worse than better. 

" Yes, come, father ! " Esther added to the 
farmer's invitation, and drew a chair back for 
him two plates away from Abner. Thus ad- 
jured he rose and hobbled stiffly over to the 
place indicated, bringing his foot-blanket with 
him. Esther stooped to arrange this for him 
and then seated herself next the host. 

" You see, I'm going to sit beside you, Mr. 
Beech," she said, with a wan little smile. 

" Glad to have you," remarked Abner, 
gravely. 



174 THE COPPERHEAD 

The Underwood girl brought in a first 
plate of buckwheat cakes, set it down in 
front of Abner, and took her seat opposite 
Hagadorn and next to me. There remained 
three vacant places, down at the foot of the 
table, and though we all began eating with- 
out comment, everybody continually encoun- 
tered some other's glance straying significantly 
toward these empty seats. Janey Wilcox, 
very straight and with an uppish air, came 
in with another plate of cakes and marched 
out again in tell-tale silence. 

" Hurley ! Come along in here an' git 
your breakfast ! " 

The farmer fairly roared out this command, 
then added in a lower, apologetic tone : " I 
'spec' the women-folks 've got their hands 
full with that broken-down old stove." 

We all looked toward the point, half-way 
down the central barn-floor, where the demo- 
crat wagon, drawn crosswise, served to divide 
our improvised living-room and kitchen. 
Through the wheels, and under its uplifted 
pole, we could vaguely discern two petti- 
coated figures at the extreme other end, 
moving about the stove, the pipe of which was 
carried up and out through a little window 



THE BREAKFAST 175 

above the door. Then Hurley appeared, duck- 
ing his head under the wagon-pole. 

"I'm aitin' out here, convanient to the 
stove," he shouted from this dividing-line. 

" No, come and take your proper place ! " 
bawled back the farmer, and Hurley had 
nothing to do but obey. He advanced with 
obvious reluctance, and halted at the foot of 
the table, eying with awkward indecision 
the three vacant chairs. One was M'rye's; 
the others would place him either next to 
the hated cooper or diagonally opposite, 
where he must look at him all the while. 

"Sure, I'm better out there ! " he ventured 
to insist, in a wheedling tone; but Abner 
thundered forth an angry "No, sir!" and 
the Irishman sank abruptly into the seat 
beside Hagadorn. From this place he eyed 
the Underwood girl with a glare of con- 
temptuous disapproval. I learned afterward 
that M'rye and Janey Wilcox regarded her 
desertion of them as the meanest episode of 
the whole miserable morning, and beguiled 
their labors over the stove by recounting to 
each other all the low-down qualities illus- 
trated by the general history of her " sap- 
headed tribe." 



176 THE COPPERHEAD 

Meanwhile conversation languished. 

With the third or fourth instalment of 
cakes, Janey Wilcox had halted long enough 
to deliver herself of a few remarks, sternly 
limited to the necessities of the occasion. 
" M'rye says," she declaimed, coldly, looking 
the while with great fixedness at the hay- 
wall, "if the cakes are sour she can't help 
it. We saved what was left over of the bat- 
ter, but the Graham flour and the sody are 
both burnt up," and with that stalked out 
again. 

Not even politeness could excuse the pre- 
tence on anyone's part that the cakes were 
not sour, but Abner seized upon the general 
subject as an opening for talk. 

" 'Member when I was a little shaver," he 
remarked, with an effort at amiability, " my 
sisters kicked about havin' to bake the cakes, 
on account of the hot stove makin' their faces 
red an' spoilin' their complexions, an' they 
wanted specially to go to some fandango or 
other, an' look their pootiest, an' so father 
sent us boys out into the kitchen to bake 'em 
instid. Old Lorenzo Dow, the Methodist 
preacher, was stoppin' over-night at our 
house, an' mother was jest beside herself to 



THE BREAKFAST 177 

have everything go off ship-shape — an' then 
them cakes begun comin' in. Fust my 
brother William, he baked one the shape of a 
horse, an' then Josh, he made one like a jack- 
ass with ears as long as the griddle would 
allow of lengthwise, and I'd got jest com- 
fortably started in on one that I begun as a 
pig, an' then was going to alter into a ship 
with sails up, when father, he come out with 
a hold-back strap, an' — well — mine never 
got finished to this day. Mother, she was 
mortified most to death, but old Dow, he jest 
lay back and laughed — laughed till you'd 
thought he'd split himself." 

"It was from Lorenzo Dow's lips that I 
had my first awakening call unto righteous- 
ness," said Jee Hagadorn, speaking with 
solemn unction in high, quavering tones. 

The fact that he should have spoken at all 
was enough to take even the sourness out of 
M'rye's cakes. 

Abner took up the ball with solicitous 
promptitude. " A very great man, Lorenzo 
Dow was — in his way," he remarked. 

"By grace he was spared the shame and 
humiliation," said Hagadorn, lifting his voice 
as he went on — " the humiliation of living to 



178 THE COPPERHEAD 

see one whole branch of the Church separate 
itself from the rest — withdraw and call it- 
self the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 
in defence of human slavery ! " 

Esther, red-faced with embarrassment, in- 
tervened peremptorily. " How can you, 
father ! " she broke in. " For all you know 
he might have been red-hot on that side him- 
self ! In fact, I dare say he would have been. 
How on earth can you know to the contrary, 
anyway ? " 

Jee was all excitement on the instant, at 
the promise of an argument. His eyes 
flashed ; he half rose from his seat and opened 
his mouth to reply. So much had he to say, 
indeed, that the words stumbled over one 
another on his tongue, and produced nothing, 
but an incoherent stammering sound, which 
all at once was supplanted by a violent fit of 
coughing. So terrible were the paroxysms 
of this seizure that when they had at last 
spent their fury the poor man was trembling 
like a leaf and toppled in his chair as if about 
to swoon. Esther had hovered about over 
him from the outset of the fit, and now looked 
up appealingly to Abner. The farmer rose, 
walked down the table-side, and gathered 



THE BREAKFAST 179 

Jee's fragile form up under one big engird- 
ling arm. Then, as the girl hastily dragged 
forth the tick and blankets again and spread 
them into the rough semblance of a bed, 
Abner half led, half carried the cooper 
over and gently laid him down thereon. 
Together they fixed up some sort of pillow 
for him with hay under the blanket, and 
piled him snugly over with quilts and my 
comfortable. 

"There — you'll be better layin' down," 
said Abner, soothingly. Hagadorn closed 
his eyes wearily and made no answer. They 
left him after a minute or two and returned 
to the table. 

The rest of the breakfast was finished al- 
most wholly in silence. Every once in a 
while Abner and Esther would exchange 
looks, his gravely kind, hers gratefully con- 
tented, and these seemed really to render 
speech needless. For my own part, I foresaw 
with some degree of depression that there 
would soon be no chance whatever of my 
securing attention in the rSle of an invalid, 
at least in this part of the barn. 

Perhaps, however, they might welcome me 
in the kitchen part, as a sort of home-product 



180 THE COPPERHEAD 

rival to the sick cooper. I rose and walked 
languidly out into M'rye's domain. But the 
two women were occupied with a furious 
scrubbing of rescued pans for the morning's 
milk, and they allowed me to sit feebly down 
on the wood-box behind the stove without so 
much as a glance of sympathy. 

By and by we heard one of the great front 
doors rolled back on its shrieking wheels and 
then shut to again. Someone had entered, 
and in a moment there came some strange, 
inarticulate sounds of voices which showed 
that the arrival had created a commotion. 
M'rye lifted her head, and I shall never for- 
get the wild, expectant flashing of her black 
eyes in that moment of suspense. 

" Come in here, mother ! " we heard Abner's 
deep voice call out from beyond the democrat 
wagon. " Here's somebody wants to see 
you!" 

M'rye swiftly wiped her hands on her 
apron and glided rather than walked toward 
the forward end of the barn. Janey Wilcox 
and I followed close upon her heels, dodging 
together under the wagon-pole, and emerging, 
breathless and wild with curiosity, on the 
fringe of an excited group. 



THE BREAKFAST 181 

In the centre of this group, standing with 
a satisfied smile on his face, his general ap- 
pearance considerably the worse for wear, 
but in demeanor, to quote M'rye's subse- 
quent phrase, "as cool as Cuffy," was Ni 
Hagadorn. 



CHAPTER XIV 

FINIS 

" He's all right ; you can look for him 
here right along now, any day; he ivas hurt 
a leetle, but he's as peart an' chipper now as 
a blue-jay on a hick'ry limb ; yes, he's a-comin' 
right smack home ! " 

This was the gist of the assurances which 
Ni vouchsafed to the first rush of eager ques- 
tions — to his sister, and JM'rye, and Janey 
Wilcox. 

Abner had held a little aloof, to give the 
weaker sex a chance. Now he reasserted 
himself once more : " Stan' back, now, and 
give the young man breathin' room. Janey, 
hand a chair for'ard — that's it. Now set ye 
down, Ni, an' take your own time, an' tell us 
all about it. So you reely found him, eh ? " 

" Pshaw ! there ain't anything to that," 
expostulated Ni, seating himself with non- 
chalance, and tilting back his chair. " That 
was easy as rollin' off a log. But what's the 

182 



finis 183 

matter here ? That's what knocks me. We 
— that is to say, I — come up on a freight 
train to a ways beyond Juno Junction, an' 
got the conductor to slow up and let me drop 
off, an' footed it over the hill. It was jest 
about broad daylight when I turned the 
divide. Then I began lookin' for your house, 
an' I'm lookin' for it still. There's a hole out 
there, full o' snow an' smoke, but nary a 
house. How'd it happen ? " 

" 'Lection bonfire — high wind — wood- 
shed must 'a' caught," replied Abner, senten- 
tiously. " So you reely got down South, eh ? " 

" An' Siss here, too," commented Ni, with 
provoking disregard for the farmer's sugges- 
tions ; " a reg'lar family party. An', hello ! " 

His roving eye had fallen upon the recum- 
bent form on the made-up bed, under the 
muffling blankets, and he lifted his sandy 
wisps of eyebrows in inquiry. 

" Sh ! It's father," explained Esther. "He 
isn't feeling very well. I think he's asleep." 

The boy's freckled, whimsical face melted 
upon reflection into a distinct grin. " Why," 
he said, "you've been havin' a reg'lar old 
love-feast up here. I guess it was that that 
set the house on fire ! An' speakin' o' feasts, 



184 THE COPPERHEAD 

if you've got a mouthful o' somethin' to eat 
handy — " 

The women were off like a shot to the 
impromptu larder at the far end of the barn. 

" Well, thin," put in Hurley, taking advan- 
tage of their absence, " an' had ye the luck to 
see anny rale fightin' ? " 

"Never mind that," said Abner; "when 
he gits around to it he'll tell us everything. 
But, fust of all — why, he knows what I want 
to hear about." 

"Why, the last time I talked with you, 
Abner — " Ni began, squinting up one of 
his eyes and giving a quaint drawl to his 
words. 

" That's a good while ago," said the farmer, 
quietly. 

"Things have took a change, eh?" in- 
quired Ni. 

" That's neither here nor there," replied 
Abner, somewhat testily. " You oughtn't to 
need so dummed much explainin'. I've told 
you what I want specially to hear. An' that's 
what we all want to hear." 

When the women had returned, and Ni, 
with much deliberation, had filled both hands 
with selected eatables, the recital at last got 



FINIS 185 

under way. Its progress was blocked from 
time to time by sheer force of tantalizing 
perversity on the part of the narrator, and it 
suffered steadily from the incidental hitches 
of mastication ; but such as it was we 
listened to it with all our ears, sitting or 
standing about, and keeping our eyes intently 
upon the freckled young hero. 

"It wasn't so much of a job to git down 
there as I'd figured on," Ni said, between 
mouthfuls. " I got along on freight trains 
— once worked my way a while on a hand- 
car — as far as Albany, an' on down to 
New York on a river-boat, cheap, an' then, 
after foolin' round a few days, I hitched up 
with the Sanitary Commission folks, an' got 
them to let me sail on one o' their boats round 
to 'Napolis. I thought I was goin' to die 
most o' the voyage, but I didn't, you see, an' 
when I struck 'Napolis I hung around Camp 
Parole there quite a spell, talkin' with fellers 
that'd bin pris'ners down in Richmond an' got 
exchanged an' sent North. They said there 
was a whole slew of our fellers down there 
still that'd been brought in after Antietam. 
They didn't know none o' their names, but 
they said they'd all be sent North in time, in 



186 THE COPPERHEAD 

exchange for Johnny Rebs that we'd cap- 
tured. An' so I waited round — " 

" You might have written ! " interrupted 
Esther, reproachfully. 

" What'd bin the good o' writin' ? I 
hadn't anything to tell. Besides writin' let- 
ters is for girls. Well, one day a man come 
up from Libby — that's the prison at Rich- 
mond — an' he said there ivas a tall feller 
there from York State, a farmer, an' he died. 
He thought the name was Birch, but it might 
'a' been Beech — or Body-Maple, for that 
matter. I s'pose you'd like to had me write 
that home ! " 

" No — oh, no ! " murmured Esther, speak- 
ing the sense of all the company. 

" Well, then I waited some more, an' kep' 
on waitin', an' then waited ag'in, until bimeby, 
one fine day, along comes Mr. Blue-jay him- 
self. There he was, stan'in' up on the paddle- 
box with a face on him as long as your arm, 
an' I sung out, ' Way there, Agrippa Hill ! ' 
an' he come mighty nigh fallin' head over 
heels into the water. So then he come off, 
an' we shook han's, an' went up to the com- 
missioners to see about his exchange, an' — 
an' as soon's that's fixed, an' the papers drawn 



FINIS 187 

up all correct, Avhy, he'll come home. An' 
that's all there is to it." 

" And even then you never wrote ! " said 
Esther, plaintively. 

" Hold on a minute," put in Abner. " You 
say he's comin' home. That wouldn't be 
unless he was disabled. They'd keep him to 
fight ag'in, till his time was up. Come, now, 
tell the truth — he's be'n hurt bad ! " 

Ni shook his unkempt red head. "No, 
no," he said. " This is how it was. Fust he 
was fightin' in a cornfield, an' him an' Bi 
Truax, they got chased out, an' lost their 
regiment, an' got in with some other fellers, 
and then they all waded a creek breast-high, 
an' had to run up a long stretch o' slopin' 
ploughed ground to capture a battery they 
was on top o' the knoll. But they didn't see 
a regiment of sharp-shooters layin' hidden 
behind a rail fence, an' these fellers riz up 
all to once an' give it to 'em straight, an' 
they wilted right there, an' laid down, an' 
there they was after dusk when the rebs 
come out an' started lookin' round for guns 
an' blankets an' prisoners. Most of 'em was 
dead, or badly hurt, but they was a few who'd 
simply lain there in the hollow because it'd 



188 THE COPPERHEAD 

have bin death to git up. An' Jen was one 
o' them.' 1 '' 

" You said yourself 't he had been hurt — 
some," interposed M'rye, with snapping eyes. 

" Jest a scratch on his arm," declared Ni. 
"Well, then they marched the well ones 
back to the rear of the reb line, an' there 
they jest skinned 'em of everything they had 
— watch an' jack-knife an' wallet an' every- 
thing — an' put 'em to sleep on the bare 
ground. Next day they started 'em out on 
the march toward Richmond, an' after four 
or five days o' that, they got to a railroad, 
and there was cattle cars for 'em to ride 
the rest o' the way in. An' that's how it 
was." 

" No," said Abner, sternly ; " you haven't 
told us. How badly is he hurt ? " 

" Well," replied Ni, " it was only a scratch, 
as I said, but it got worse on that march, an' 
I s'pose it wasn't tended to anyways de- 
cently, an' so — an' so — " 

M'rye had sprung to her feet and stood 
now drawn up to her full height, with her 
sharp nose in air as if upon some strange 
scent, and her eyes fairly glowing in eager 
excitement. All at once she made a bound 



FINIS 189 

past us and ran to the doors, furiously dig- 
ging her fingers in the crevice between them, 
then, with a superb sweep of the shoulders, 
sending them both rattling back on their 
wheels with a bang. 

" I knew it ! " she screamed in triumph. 

We who looked out beheld M'rye's black 
hair and brown calico dress suddenly suffer 
a partial eclipse of pale blue, which for the 
moment seemed in some way a part of the 
bright winter sky beyond. Then we saw 
that it was a soldier who had his arm about 
M'rye, and his cap bent down tenderly over 
the head she had laid on his shoulder. 

Our Jeff had come home. 

A general instinct rooted us to our places 
and kept us silent, the while mother and son 
stood there in the broad open doorway. 

Then the two advanced toward us, M'rye 
breathing hard, and with tears and smiles 
struggling together on her face under the 
shadow of a wrathful frown. We noted 
nothing of Jeff's appearance save that he 
had grown a big yellow beard, and seemed 
to be smiling. It was the mother's dis- 
traught countenance at which we looked 
instead. 



190 THE COPPERHEAD 

She halted in front of Abner, and lifted 
the blue cape from Jeff's left shoulder, with 
an abrupt gesture. 

" Look there ! " she said, hoarsely. " See 
what they've done to my boy ! " 

We saw now that the left sleeve of Jeff's 
army-overcoat was empty and hung pinned 
against his breast. On the instant we were 
all swarming about him, shaking the hand 
that remained to him and striving against 
one another in a babel of questions, com- 
ments, and expressions of sympathy with his 
loss, satisfaction at his return. It seemed 
the most natural thing in the world that he 
should kiss Esther Hagadorn, and that Janey 
Wilcox should reach up on tiptoes and kiss 
him. When the Underwood girl would have 
done the same, however, M'rye brusquely 
shouldered her aside. 

So beside ourselves with excitement were 
we all, each in turn seeking to get in a word 
edgewise, that no one noticed the approach 
and entrance of a stranger, who paused just 
over the threshold of the barn and coughed 
in a loud perfunctory way to attract our 
attention. I had to nudge Abner twice 
before he turned from where he stood at 



FINIS 191 

Jeff's side, with his hand on the luckless 
shoulder, and surveyed the new-comer. 

The sun was shining so brightly on the 
snow outside, that it was not for the moment 
easy to make out the identity of this shad- 
owed figure. Abner took a forward step or 
two before he recognized his visitor. It was 
Squire Avery, the rich man of the Corners, 
and justice of the peace, who had once even 
run for Congress. 

"How d' do?" said Abner, shading his 
eyes with a massive hand. " Won't you step 
in?" 

The Squire moved forward a little and 
held forth his hand, which the farmer took 
and shook doubtfully. We others were as 
silent now as the grave, feeling this visit to 
be even stranger than all that had gone 
before. 

"I drove up right after breakfast, Mr. 
Beech," said the Squire, making his accus- 
tomed slow delivery a trifle more pompous 
and circumspect than usual, "to express to 
you the feeling of such neighbors as I have, 
in this limited space of time, being able to 
foregather with. I believe, sir, that I may 
speak for them all when I say that we regret, 



192 THE COPPERHEAD 

deplore, and contemplate with indignation 
the outrage and injury to which certain 
thoughtless elements of the community last 
night, sir, subjected you and your house- 
hold." 

"It's right neighborly of you, Square, to 
come an' say so," remarked Abner. " Won't 
you set down ? You see, my son Jeff's jest 
come home from the war, an' the house bein' 
burnt, an' so on, we're rather upset for the 
minute." 

The Squire put on his spectacles and 
smiled with surprise at seeing Jeff. He 
shook hands with him warmly, and spoke 
with what we felt to be the right feeling 
about that missing arm ; but he could not sit 
down, he said. The cutter was waiting for 
him, and he must hurry back. 

" I am glad, however," he added, " to have 
been the first, Mr. Beech, to welcome your 
brave son back, and to express to you the 
hope, sir, that with this additional link of 
sympathy between us, sir, bygones may be 
allowed to become bygones." 

" I don't bear no ill will," said Abner, 
guardedly. " I s'pose in the long run folks 
act pooty close to about what they think is 



FINIS 193 

right. I'm willin' to give 'em that credit — 
the same as I take to myself. They ain't 
been much disposition to give me that credit, 
but then, as our school-ma'am here was a 
sayin' last night, people 've been a good deal 
worked up about the war — havin' them that's 
close to 'em right down in the thick of it — 
an' I dessay it was natural enough they should 
git hot in the collar about it. As I said afore, 
I don't bear no ill will — though prob'ly I'm 
entitled to." 

The Squire shook hands with Abner again. 
"Your sentiments, Mr. Beech," he said, in 
his stateliest manner, " do credit alike to your 
heart and your head. There is a feeling, sir, 
that this would be an auspicious occasion for 
you to resume sending your milk to the 
cheese-factory." 

Abner pondered the suggestion for a 
moment. "It would be handier," he said, 
slowly ; " but, you know, I ain't goin' to eat 
no humble pie. That Rod Bidwell was 
downright insultin' to my man, an' me 
too—" 

" It was all, I assure you, sir, an unfortu- 
nate misunderstanding," pursued the Squire, 
"and is now buried deep in oblivion. And 



194 THE COPPERHEAD 

it is further suggested, that, when you have 
reached that stage of preparation for your 
new house, if you will communicate with me, 
the neighbors will be glad to come up and 
extend their assistance to you in what is com- 
monly known as a raising-bee. They will 
desire, I believe, to bring with them their 
own provisions. And, moreover, Mr. Beech" 
— here the Squire dropped his oratorical 
voice and stepped close to the farmer — " if 
this thing has cramped you any, that is to 
say, if you find yourself in need of — of — 
any accommodation — " 

" No, nothin' o' that sort," said Abner. 
He stopped at that, and kept silence for a 
little, with his head down and his gaze medi- 
tatively fixed on the barn floor. At last he 
raised his face and spoke again, his deep voice 
shaking a little in spite of itself. 

" What you've said, Square, an' your comin' 
here, has done me a lot o' good. It's pooty 
nigh wuth bein' burnt out for — to have this 
sort o' thing come on behind as an after-clap. 
Sometimes, I tell you, sir, I've despaired o' 
the republic. I admit it, though it's to my 
shame. I've said to myself that when Ameri- 
can citizens, born an' raised right on the same 



FINIS 195 

hill-side, got to behavin' to each other in such 
an all-fired mean an' cantankerous way, why, 
the hull blamed thing wasn't worth tryin' to 
save. But you see I was wrong — I admit I 
was wrong. It was jest a passin' flurry — a 
kind o' snow-squall in hayin' time. All the 
while, right down't the bottom, their hearts 
was sound an' sweet as a butter-nut. It 
fetches me — that does — it makes me prouder 
than ever I was before in all my born days 
to be an American — yes, sir — that's the 
way I — I feel about it." 

There were actually tears in the big 
farmer's eyes, and he got out those finishing 
words of his in fragmentary gulps. None of 
us had ever seen him so affected before. 

After the Squire had shaken hands again 
and started off, Abner stood at the open door, 
looking after him, then gazing in a comtem- 
plative general way upon all out-doors. The 
vivid sunlight reflected up from the melting 
snow made his face to shine as if from an 
inner radiance. He stood still and looked 
across the yards with their piles of wet straw 
smoking in the forenoon heat, and the black 
puddles eating into the snow as the thaw 
went on; over the further prospect, made 



196 THE COPPERHEAD 

weirdly unfamiliar by the disappearance of 
the big old farm-house ; down the long broad 
sloping hill-side with its winding road, its 
checkered irregular patches of yellow stubble 
and stacked fodder, of deep umber ploughed 
land and warm gray woodland, all pushing 
aside their premature mantle of sparkling 
white, and the scattered homesteads and red 
barns beyond — and there was in his eyes the 
far-away look of one who saw still other 
things. 

He turned at last and came in, walking 
over to where Jeff and Esther stood hand in 
hand beside the bed on the floor. Old Jee 
Hagadorn was sitting up now, and had ex- 
changed some words with the couple. 

" Well, Brother Hagadorn," said the 
farmer, " I hope you're feelin' better." 

" Yes, a good deal — B — Brother Beech, 
thank'ee," replied the cooper, slowly and 
with hesitation. 

Abner laid a fatherly hand on Esther's 
shoulder and another on Jeff's. A smile 
began to steal over his big face, broadening 
the square which his mouth cut down into 
his beard, and deepening the pleasant 
wrinkles about his eyes. He called M'rye 



FINIS 197 

over to the group with beckoning nod of the 
head. 

" It's jest occurred to me, mother," he said, 
with the mock gravity of tone we once had 
known so well and of late had heard so little 
— "I jest be'n thinkin' we might 'a' killed 
two birds with one stun while the Square 
was up here. He's justice o' the peace, you 
know — an' they say them kindo' marriages 
turn out better'n all the others." 

" Go 'long with yeh ! " said M'rye, viva- 
ciously. But she too put a hand on Esther's 
other shoulder. 

The school-teacher nestled against M'rye's 
side. " I tell you what," she said, softly, 
" if Jeff ever turns out to be half the man his 
father is, I'll just be prouder than my skin 
can hold." 



THE END 



J. S. Cushing- & Co. — Berwick & Smith. 
Boston, Mass., U.S.A. 



LO 



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